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Journal Article

IT Worked for Us: Online Strategies to Facilitate Learning in Large (Undergraduate) Classes  pp179-188

F. Greyling, M. Kara, A. Makka, S. van Niekerk

© Nov 2008 Volume 6 Issue 3, Editor: Shirley Williams, Laura Czerniewicz, pp161 - 254

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Abstract

Higher education institutions are compelled to accommodate growing class sizes as student numbers have increased over time, especially at undergraduate level. Good teaching principles are relevant to all class sizes. For example, teachers of all classes are required to create safe learning environments, motivate and engage students, interact with students, provide stimulating assessment tasks and give prompt feedback. However, meeting these requirements in the context of large classes is more challenging. As a result, traditional large class teaching methods are often characterised by the passive absorption of material, which is not ideal. What constitutes a large class? Class sizes of 60 or more have been considered large. In this paper, we report on online teaching, learning and assessment strategies for classes made up of approximately 600 first year students in Business Management 1 offered at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. The purpose of this ongoing research project is to integrate educational technologies in the classroom and study the impact of these classroom changes on the students' learning experience. The programme, which blends face‑to‑face teaching, paper‑based teaching materials and online learning by means of WebCTBlackboard tools, is now in its second cycle of implementation. This teaching strategy aims at greater lecturer‑student interaction, engaging students with the course materials on a regular basis and eliciting feedback from students, which is used to re‑teach concepts that the students find particularly difficult. The blended learning strategy resulted in enhanced student perceptions of the quality of teaching and learning, and a significant improvement in student throughput. The findings and recommendations reported in the paper are based on student feedback, gleaned through online surveys, online artefacts created by students and lecturers' classroom experiences. Although the authors report on online teaching, learning and assessment practices that proved to be effective in large classes, many conclusions may be of relevance to smaller classes.

 

Keywords: large classes, e-Learning, assessment, evaluation, social presence, action research

 

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Journal Article

Investigating a Nigerian XXL‑Cohort Wiki‑Learning Experience: Observation, Feedback and Reflection  pp191-202

Peter Aborisade

© Dec 2009 Volume 7 Issue 3, Special ICEL 2009 Issue, Editor: Florin Salajan and Avi Hyman, pp191 - 316

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Abstract

A regular feature of the Nigerian tertiary education context is large numbers of students crammed into small classrooms or lecture theatres. This context had long begged for the creation of innovative learning spaces and adoption of engaging pedagogies. Recourse to technology support and experimenting with the WIKI as a learning tool at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Nigeria gave us an insight into the benefits and challenges of the set‑up and use of new knowledge technologies in our technology‑poor context. This paper reports an experiment in an extra‑large (XXL) class of freshmen (2000+) on a module of second language project writing using the WIKI. The paper emphasises the unique advantages of the WIKI in a large blended learning class and the affordances for socio‑cultural and collaborative learning experience. In creating new learning teams and forging collaboration among learners leveraging one another's abilities, the wiki experience extended the 'classroom' beyond the physical space, engaged students in interactional communication in the second language, encouraged negotiation of meaning, and challenged learners in finding their 'solutions' to real life problems around them, aside from acquisition of hands‑on digital literacy. The paper reports on how learners experienced and participated in learning on a technology supported module. Data for the investigation and evaluation of students' learning experiences were collected using teacher observation of team formation and collaboration on activities offline and tracked students' logs, footprints and activities on group pages online; students' feedback on the end‑of‑course learners' evaluation forms; and their reflections as gleaned from their comments, encouraged and freely made continually by many from inception through to the end of the course, on the front page of our wiki. The report employs both qualitative and quantitative parameters. Results indicated a large number of students felt satisfied that the learning experience, though difficult, was worth their while; it opened up new vistas to the world; it got them working and learning to collaborate in groups; they developed a level of autonomy they would like to keep, and would like more of their courses supported by technology and thought the medium offered hope for the future, as it opened up new vistas in their learning.

 

Keywords: large classes, Wiki, e-learning, learning experience, interaction, collaboration, team work

 

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