Use of multi-modal media and tools in an online information literacy course: College students' attitudes and perceptions

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    students' attitudes anby Hsin-Liang Chen and James PatrickAvailable online 13 December 2008

    This project studies the use of multi-modalmedia objects in an online information

    literacy class. One hundred sixty-twoundergraduate students answered seven

    surveys. Significant relationships are foundamong computer skills, teaching materials,

    communication tools and learningexperience. Multi-modal media objects and

    communication tools are neededto strengthen course interactions and

    interaction in web-based classes and to investigate

    ges 1424James Patrick Williams, College of Staten Island Library,The City University of New York, Staten Island, NY 10314, USA.

    14 The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 35, Number 1, paHsin-Liang Chen is Assistant Professor, School of InformationScience and Learning Technologies, University of Missouri at

    Columbia, 303 Townsend Hall, Columbia, MO 65211, USA;

    how these preferences inform navigation and perfor-mance within such courses. The investigators areinterested in learning what impact students feeltowards what media variety and interaction typehave on how they work within the web-basedenvironment and how their expectations and prefer-ences in such an environment relate to preferences forother online activities.

    BACKGROUND AND RELATED WORKEffectiveness Perceived By Students

    Evaluation of networked learning often focuses onattracting new students, generating new revenues, pro-viding students flexible and convenient educationalstudent engagement.Use of multi-modalonline informationedia and tools in anteracy course: Colleged perceptionsWilliams

    INTRODUCTIONWith the development of information and communica-tion technologies (ICT), networked learning has becomepopular at higher education institutions for reasonsincluding institutional advances, student enrollment,and instructional demands. Studies have shown that theuse of ICTs by instructors and students is increasingboth in and out of classroom.17 The increasing usage isa result of university investments in campus informa-tion infrastructure and technological implementationas well as studies of pedagogy; however, in the mean-time, the increase also demonstrates continuingdemands on campus.810 These demands are accom-panied by high costs. Therefore, university adminis-trators must determine whether investment in ICTs hasimproved the quality of teaching and learning.

    The quality of teaching and learning can be examinedthrough a variety of measures. The investigators areinterested in effectiveness from the learner's perspectiveand conduct this project in an online introductorytechnology and information literacy course for under-graduates. The course provides anoverviewof thehistoryof Internet and its social impacts alongside hands-ontraining in various technologies. Data collection tookplace in this course during the Fall 2005 semester.

    The goal of this project is to determine student pre-ferences over multi-modal media and tools for online

  • opportunities. Some researchers have identified dis-advantages in networked learning such as low self-motivation and discipline, minimal interaction with ins-

    Therefore, determining the appropriate multi-modallearning objects for synchronous and asynchronoustructors and peers, and lack of a learning framework.3,11

    However, Hara and Kling12 point out thatmost studiesfail to address students' difficulties, and the quality andeffectiveness of online distance education courses. Dueto the rapid development of ICTs and their applicationsto online education, it is important to re-examine thoseissues and see whether the findings from Hara andKling's study are still applicable. Bouhnik and Marcus13

    present a model promoting students' interactions withcourse content, instructors, and systems.

    Many public universities are required by state legis-lators or the U.S. Congress to justify their budgets andaccountability.14 Effectiveness is one aspect of account-ability measurement of education, as universities investenormous amount of money on technologies for ins-truction.1517 As the pedagogical focus moves fromteacher-centered to student-centered, instructionaleffectiveness should include students' feedback on theuse of technology.1820 Whether or not students per-ceive the same value in approaches to online instruc-tion as their instructors is an area that requires furtherstudy.21

    Multi-Modal Learning ObjectsMulti-modal learning objects in this study are

    identified in both visual and auditory modes. Theseobjects are text, graphic, audio, video, and instantmessaging. The instructors and students use theseobjects to communicate with each other. The use ofICTs can strongly influence the presentation and organi-zation of course content.22 Additionally, it can have greatimpact on in-class communication and interactionamong students and between instructors and studentsin both synchronous and asynchronous forms.

    Instructional technologists have promoted the useof multimedia in classrooms, believing that multimediaenriches the learning process and that students canperform better with visual images and words than justwords alone.23,24 However, some learning scientistsdoubt the effectiveness of graphical presentation onlearning opportunities.25,26 Mixed results in studentsfeedback indicate that multi-modal learning objects mayhave no influence on themagnitude of students' learningjudgment27; and some students still prefer face-to-facelectures which can be more animated than the Webformat.28 These different findings intrigue the investiga-tors to study the effectiveness froma student perspective.

    Instructional technologists have promotedthe use of multimedia in classrooms,believing that multimedia enriches thelearning process and that students canperform better with visual images and

    words than just words alone.instructional settings is an important topic for coursecontent development and student-centered learning.

    Students' AttitudesStudents' attitudes toward instructional media are

    related to motivation and learning outcomes.29 Sims30

    advocates the importance of aligning student percep-tions and expectations regarding interactivemultimediain the networked learning environment. According tohis study, sixty-eight Australian undergraduate studentsconsidered that effective interactivity should consist ofengagement, control, communication, design, the indi-vidual, and learning. Bruce, Dowd, Eastburn, andD'Arcy31 also find similar responses from college stu-dents in an online agricultural Web site over a six-yearperiod. Regarding resistance, Thompson and Lynch32

    discover that people with weaker Internet self-efficacybeliefs would be inclined to resist web-based instruc-tion. Therefore, students' attitudes and expectations areessential factors to the success of networked learningenvironment.

    Studied Online Course: INF 312Information In Cyberspace

    The course examined in this study, Information inCyberspace, is an online course with an enrollment over150 students at the University of Texas. It has beenevolving since 1998; it began as a face-to-face classroomcourse, but due to space constraints and studentdemand, it has evolved into a course that it taughtcompletely online. The content of the elective coursecovers the basics of technology and information literacy,and is taught by students and staff of the UT School ofInformation. In this course, students learn new skills forresearch and communication online, consider thehistory and future of the networked society, andregularly engage with new technologies. The courseemphasizes a hands-on, critical approach to finding,using, and sharing information on theWorldWideWeb.There are five core course modules: An Introduction toUnix and Linux, Computer and Internet Security, Inter-net History and Governance, Information Searching andEvaluation, and An Introduction to Copyright. Thecourse utilizes a variety of methods to deliver contentand to demonstrate the different modalities throughwhich information is delivered and organized online.The instructors present materials via a course Web sitecontaining instructionalmodules created by the instruc-tors, outside readings on various topics, streamingmultimedia lectures, synchronous multi-user and one-on-one chat, discussion boards, and online tutorials forhands-on exercises (Figs. 1 and 2).

    To communicate with students, instructors useemail, instant messaging (IM), discussion boards, onlinesurveys, up-to-date lists of frequently asked questions(FAQs), weblogs, social bookmarks, and face-to-facemeetings in the school's IT lab. Emphasis is placed onmultiple modes of contact and awareness of classmilestones, as well as the functional roles of under-lying technologies (hence the integrated assignment

    January 2009 15

  • Figure 2The Initial Page of an INF 312 Instructional Module

    Figure 1INF 312 Course Homepage

    16 The Journal of Academic Librarianship

  • Figure 3INF 312 Contact Information Page with Schedule and Online Indicatorsand class deadline countdown and browser/computerinformation).

    Each week, instructors and TAs are available tostudents via chat for more than 60 h. Students madeaware of whom they may immediately contact onlinethrough the course Web site that contains real-timeonline status indicators (Fig. 3).

    Additionally, in order to create community andcombat the illusion of isolation in such a large class,the instructors hold one live webcast discussion sessionFigureComponents of a Wper two-week module. These webcasts incorporatestreaming audio and video with text-based chat, voiceover IP, and other collaborative tools. Students are typi-cally provided with streaming audio and video of theirinstructors and guests related to the current topic, andare directed to a text-based chatroom in which theymay interact with one another, the instructors and TAs,and the guest speakers (Fig. 4).

    In order to expose students to the variety of syn-chronous collaborative technologies available, the ins-4ebcast Session

    January 2009 17

  • tructors alternate between the tools they use to presentthe group chat session. These tools include Blackboard's

    during the semester (one for each of the differentcourse modules), and one at the end of the semesterThe investigators proposed the following three researchquestions:

    1. What are the relationships among participants' demo-graphic characteristics, computer skills and usage, andtheir expectations about the online class?

    2. What are the relationships between the media em-ployed in each course module and the participantslearning experiences and satisfaction?

    3. What are the participants' perceptions of the over-all learning experiences and satisfaction levels in thisonline class?

    RESEARCH METHODSData collection included seven different surveys corre-sponding to course content. Online surveys wereconducted at the beginning of the course, immediatelyafter each of the five webcast sessions, and at the end ofthe course. The investigators' survey items were inte-grated within regular surveys designed by instructors to

    Figure 5Project OverviewOffice Hours (a text-only group chatroom), the morerobust Blackboard's Virtual Classroom (which includesa virtualwhiteboard and other tools), and the group chatfeature of Skype, a popular voice-over-IP client.

    The instructors of the course, who regularly sharetheir teaching experiences with one another, havefound that communicating with and maintainingstudents' awareness of others can be a challenge forsuch a course. In order to meet the challenge and toaddress the varying levels of experience with technol-ogy present among students, the instructors chose tooffer students a variety of communication options toensure that students remain informed and feel theirvoices will be heard.33

    The instructors have also incorporated enhancementsto course materials based on response from students,and seek to include a wide spectrum of technologies forcontent delivery. Based on the instructors' informalinteraction with students, such enhancements havecontributed to student excitement about the course,and also have helped to identify some areas in whichstudent attitudes indicate the limitations of someinstructional technologies. However, a systematic stu-dent-oriented instructional evaluation of the class isneeded to ensure the quality of the class. In creating thecourse content and delivery strategies, the instructorsneed to understand students' perceptions of the effec-tiveness of different approaches (collected through dis-cussion and surveys) and strive to create an instructionalenvironment inwhich students havemultiple paths andmulti-modal arrangements for engaging with theinstructional modules and among themselves and withtheir instructors.

    PROJECT OVERVIEWThis project is an exploratory study on the use of multi-modal media and tools for an online informationliteracy course. The goal of this project is to establish aframework for developing, designing, and evaluatingthe course. The investigators plan to report findings inthree parts. This paper is the first part of the projectfocusing on identifying meaningful variables whichmay have impact on students' online learning experi-ences based on students' feedback and self-evaluationat three different learning stages (before, during, andupon completion of the course). The second part willcover students' learning experiences from the begin-ning of the course to the end. Based on the variables andconnections among variables, the investigators willdiscuss design and evaluation principles for the classand implications for online education as a whole in thethird part (Fig. 5).

    RESEARCH QUESTIONSThe investigators consider that identifying meaningfulvariables is the first step for evaluating quality onlinecourses. Few studies focus on identifying such variables,particularly, at different learning stages. Therefore, theinvestigators used seven online surveys to collect datafrom students, one at the beginning of the semester, five

    18 The Journal of Academic Librarianship.

    '

  • Table 1Key Variables in 7 Surveys

    Survey Variable Anchors

    coming Computer skills 1 Beginner

    7 Fluent

    Frequency of computer use 1 I avoid them

    7 Constantly

    Tendency to procrastinate 1 I always procrastinate

    7 I am very motivated to complete my work early

    Use of instant messaging 1 I never use IM

    7 I constantly use IM

    Expectations in the class 1 I expect i312 to be much worse than a classroom course

    7 I expect i312 to be much better than a classroom course

    course modules Audio quality of webcast 1 Poor

    7 Excellent

    Video quality of webcast 1 Poor

    7 Excellent

    Particular tools used for webcast 1 Poor

    7 Excellent

    Ability to follow webcast program 1 I had lots of trouble following what was happening.

    7 I was able to follow both the chat and video presentationvery closely

    Class engagement 1 I would prefer not to interact with others during awebcast session.

    7 I am very likely interact with students and instructorsduring a webcast session.

    Comparison with a physical class 1 It is f...

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