Critical success factors and effective pedagogy for e-learning in tertiary education Publications
This report is intended to provide information about effective teaching and learning practices for Māori e-Learners in a tertiary sector context. It distilled and combined the main messages on effective teaching and learning, and the use of e-Learning in blended tertiary courses. These show consistencies and the messages are presented in the context of the data on e-Learning in New Zealand tertiary institutions, and material related to Māori e-Learning. The report concludes with an overview of some issues and challenges related to teaching and learning in tertiary environments.
Author(s): New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
Date Published: June 2004
This background paper was commissioned by ITPNZ to provide information about effective teaching and learning practices for e-learning in tertiary education, that would assist the wider ITPNZ project to enhance learning outcomes for Māori e-learners. It complements a separate report analysing 2004 Ministry of Education data on tertiary students and their participation in courses using ICT. What we have aimed to do is to distil the main messages coming from recent thinking on effective teaching and learning, and the main messages coming from recent evidence on the use of e-learning in blended tertiary courses. These show consistencies. These messages are presented in the context of the data on e-learning in New Zealand tertiary institutions, and material related to indigenous learning in overseas countries, and Māori e-learning. There are three useful examples of the latter; but we found very little material related to indigenous e-learning overseas. We conclude with an overview of some issues and challenges related to teaching and learning in tertiary environments.
Trends from data analysis
Analysis of 2004 Ministry of Education data on tertiary students to establish the current extent of participation in e-learning finds:
- Forty-nine percent of all tertiary students now have some degree of web use in their course, though it is only required for 17 percent.
- Courses which expect significant web use are mainly in universities.
- Overall, Māori participation in courses where there is a significant degree of web use is very low. Sixty-three percent of Māori students are enrolled in courses that have no web access.
- Māori students are more likely to be studying part-time and extramurally.
- Most wānanga programmes have no significant web use and only 5 percent of polytechnic students are in programmes involving significant web use.
- In order to increase Māori involvement in e-learning, the main focus would need to be on increasing e-learning in wānanga and polytechnics which are the main providers of tertiary education to Māori, and to use it in courses that Māori can take part-time while remaining in their current locations (and employment).
Trends from recent thinking on effective learning
- E-learning should not be a mass of online material for individual access without guidance on how to learn from it effectively.
- Courses involving e-learning need to be planned for, and grounded in an understanding of the roles of teachers and learners, of learning, and of how students learn.
- The role of prior knowledge in learning is critical and must be taken into account in e-learning design. Ongoing formative assessment is part of this.
- The brain is a dynamic organ shaped by experiences. Conceptual links are reorganised through active engagement with information in various contexts.
- Learning is an active process. It is the result of carrying out particular activities in a scaffolded environment where one activity provides the step up to the next level of development.
- Learning needs to be meaningful to learners and they should be supported in developing the skill of relating new material to what is meaningful to them.
- Learners should be enabled to become adaptable and flexible experts in their own current and future learning.
- Learning takes time and effective learning practices enable learners to work with materials from a variety of perspectives while they become fully conversant with it.
- Weaving e-learning into existing teaching and learning practices adds more ways for students to be actively and deeply involved with subject area materials.
Main messages from evidence on effective e-learning
Most of the evidence related to e-learning is available in case studies of individual courses. There is more evidence related to university than to polytechnic courses. Case studies cover a wide range of subjects, including both skill-based and conceptual. We have focused on blended learning, where e-learning complements some class-based interaction, since that appears more popular with students and teachers, is easier to introduce, and appears to offer some advantages over fully online learning.
Studies comparing student outcomes for e-learning and conventional courses show comparable results in terms of achievement, with indications that student outcomes can be broader if e-learning is used well. Student retention shows mixed patterns, and is dependent on a number of factors. Students value the flexibility of e-learning, but it is different from classroom learning, and can demand more.
The main messages from a survey of the available evidence are consistent with the messages from recent thinking on effective teaching and learning.
- E-learning can improve understanding and encourage deeper learning, if there is careful course design and choice of technology in relation to learning objectives that aim to encourage deeper learning.
- It can free up face-to-face teacher:student time for discussion, rather than using it to cover information or provide skill practice, depending on the use made of technology.
- It can improve and sustain motivation by offering interesting tasks and material.
- Students need formative feedback throughout the course. This requires careful structuring and the development of channels and projects encouraging student-student interaction as well as strategic use of teacher time to provide feedback; online tasks, tests, and quizzes are also useful in giving students a picture of their learning progress.
- Student-student interaction can also be enhanced through careful structuring, creating additional support for learning, and even a "learning community". Participation in discussion groups, etc. is supported by linking it to assessment or tasks and measures that "matter".
- It is important that students have a clear picture of the learning objectives for the course, and that assessment methods reflect and support the learning objectives.
- Students need very clear course information, and if accessing the course externally, initial face-to-face sessions are valuable to ensure understanding and skills needed to access the web material, to lay the ground for student-student interaction, particularly if some collaborative work is to be done, and for teacher-student web interaction.
- While asynchronous formats offer students more flexibility, they may also spend more time on a course using the web.
- The technology used has to be reliable, simple, and easily accessed by students.
- E-learning is easier for students who are self-managing, which may mean it is easier for mature students.
- Barriers to making the most of e-learning can arise from students' familiarity with classroom based methods and assumptions that this is how learning occurs, and from a greater interest in superficial learning to pass a course, than in increasing understanding.
- However, increasingly attention is focusing on the creation of tasks, material, and feedback mechanisms and channels that will increase motivation and hence encourage self-management, and on course structures, processes, and requirements that provide some additional frameworks for those who need them.
Three courses that have successfully engaged Māori learners are outlined. Blended courses that incorporate kanohi ki te kanohi (face-to-face) interaction and recognition, and the building of whakawhanaungatanga are more likely to meet Māori student needs than fully online courses.
Issues and challenges
The issues and challenges related to introducing and sustaining e-learning in tertiary settings can be summarised as:
- identifying and meeting the needs of learners;
- designing experiences that efficiently meet objectives;
- choosing appropriate technologies and creating motivating learning designs; and
- measuring learning outcomes.
Engaging students, minimising technical problems, providing sufficient interaction while not overtaxing teachers, and framing interaction so that it enriches learning and creates a sense of group or learning community are fundamental to effective e-learning and need to be the top priorities in setting up and reviewing e-learning provision in tertiary settings.