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Type: Conference paper
Title: Breaking down barriers: providing flexible participation options for on-campus courses
Author: Pope, C.
Citation: The Education Research Group of Adelaide (ERGA) conference 2010: The Changing Face of Education, 24-25 September, 2010
Issue Date: 2010
Series/Report no.: The Changing Face of Education, 24
Conference Name: ERGA Conference (5th : 2010 : Adelaide, Australia)
Statement of
Cheryl Pope
Abstract: Courses at the University of Adelaide, like many universities, are predominantly designed around on-campus participation. This makes participation in our courses difficult for many capable students, particularly mature age, remote students and workforce participants. In addition, in the current Australian situation where quality child and respite care is difficult to access, particularly on a casual basis, this mode of delivery also makes participation by carers difficult. Looking toward the future, the trend towards working during study is increasing and flexible participation in mixed-mode (face-to-face and on-line) courses is becoming increasingly important as even when it is possible to travel to the University, it is not always desirable to the busy professional who is reluctant to waste precious and expensive time through travel. Providing options for students to participate from remote locations also benefits students who may be injured, elite athletes, those traveling, etc. and provides a safety net for providing continuity of education during epidemics or other crisis that may prevent the use of existing buildings or large gatherings. The typical approach to accommodating the needs of such students, if they are accommodated at all, is to record faceto-face activities for later review or to provide an entirely on-line version of a course. Several studies also show that students prefer live lectures (Rowe, Harley et al. 2001; Hagel and Shaw 2007; Acharya 2003). There is also evidence that face-to-face discussion is more effective than asynchronous approaches such as discussion boards for many of the types of activities and skills needed in the maths, sciences and computing (Parker and Gemino 2001). Recording and replaying face-to-face activities is beneficial for review, but excludes students from actively engaging in face-to-face discussions. The lack of interaction with classmates can also negatively impact on a students’ engagement. Providing support for active participation by remote students combines the location flexibility of on-line learning with the social learning benefits of the large, on-campus, face-to-face cohort. This talk presents findings from a pilot study of three classes (approximately 150 students total) in the second semester of 2009. The Wimba virtual classroom (Wimba 2009) was used to integrate remote students into live learning activities. Participation was voluntary and students were able to attend lectures and tutorials through Wimba or in the lecture theatre or both. A Likert scale questionnaire and free answer questions were distributed before and after the trial to study the perceptions of both students and staff members on the need and desirability of such integration. The trials indicate that there is still a mismatch between the desires of students who want to be able to participate remotely and the technical and pedagogical challenges to providing the facility. This talk presents the challenges and benefits and also some surprises in the way that students interacted with the virtual classroom.
Rights: Copyright © 2010 The University of Adelaide
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Computer Science publications

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