Scholarly article on topic 'Experiences with Utilizing e-learning in Education Process in University Environment'

Experiences with Utilizing e-learning in Education Process in University Environment Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Marek Šolc, Jaroslav Legemza, Andrea Sütőová, Lenka Girmanová

Abstract Nowadays, information technologies influence every sphere of human activity including education. Over the last years, many e-learning projects were realized at universities in Slovakia and e-learning was integrated into education process in different forms. The aim of the paper is to describe e-learning facilities used within the selected subject as well as bring lecturers’ experiences and their view on e-learning in the terms of education process efficiency and effectiveness at the Faculty of Metallurgy of Technical University of Kosice. The paper also discusses the results of survey aimed at students’ satisfaction with e-learning utilization.

Academic research paper on topic "Experiences with Utilizing e-learning in Education Process in University Environment"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 (2012) 5201 - 5205

Social and Behavioral Sciences

WCES 2012

Experiences with utilizing e-learning in education process in

university environment

Marek Sole a *, Jaroslav Legemza b, Andrea Sütoová a Lenka Girmanová a

"Technical University of Kosice, Faculty of Metallurgy, Department of Integrated Management Systems, Letná 9, Kosice 040 42,Slovakia bTechnical University of Kosice, Faculty of Metallurgy, Department of Ferrous and Foundry Metallurgy, Letná 9, Kosice 040 42,Slovakia

Abstract

Nowadays, information technologies influence every sphere of human activity including education. Over the last years, many e-learning projects were realized at universities in Slovakia and e-learning was integrated into education process in different forms. The aim of the paper is to describe e-learning facilities used within the selected subject as well as bring lecturers' experiences and their view on e-learning in the terms of education process efficiency and effectiveness at the Faculty of Metallurgy of Technical University of Kosice. The paper also discusses the results of survey aimed at students' satisfaction with e-learning utilization.

© 2012 Published by Elsevier' Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu Keywords:e -learning, interactive applications, software , elearning benefits

1. Introduction

While traditional learning methods, such as lectures and project work, remain dominant in higher education, universities are investing considerable resources also in e-learning technology (S0reb0 & S0reb0, 2009). E-learning is a concept derived from the use of information and communication technologies to deliver teaching and learning. E-learning therefore provides a means through which the powerful and pervasive computing and communication technologies can be applied to education (Antosova, Csikosova & Senova, 2010). A common definition states that e-learning in education is a technique to enhance learning and teaching experiences and is used to educate students with or without their instructors through any type of digital media (Christie & Ferdos, 2004). E-learning has also been defined as learning and teaching facilitated online through network technologies (Garrison & Anderson, 2003) and described as utilizing many information and communication technologies (Laurillard, 2006), (Kahiigi, Ekenberg, Hansson, Tusubira & Danielson, 2008).

E-learning can either be used to replace traditional face-to-face teaching completely, or only partially to support traditional methods with access to complementary electronic information and possibilities to communicate (Penny, 2011). Nowadays, the combination of traditional teaching with modern information and communication technologies is often used in universities. E-learning allows to create more flexible education environment and

* Marek Sole. Tel.: +421-055-640-2703

E-mail address: marek.solc@tuke.sk

1877-0428 © 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.06.409

allows to adapt education to the needs of individual students more than traditional teaching. For example, on the basis of student knowledge test, advanced e-learning systems allow to compile the individual content of web course (Kveton, 2005). The main advantage of this course is that it has no geographical barriers, a participant can determine their own study tempo and its completion is recorded and evaluated (Smova & Repaska, 2006).

If the educational methods and technologies are used properly, e-learning technologies have a large impact on education. The effectiveness of any teaching methods, including e-learning, depends on many factors, e.g. structure of training modules, content level of training modules, choice of expression means and its intelligibility. Impact of such factors is essential mostly for teaching of technical subjects. Suitable forms of technical subjects e-learning can largely replace the practical training. The effectiveness of these subjects teaching can be significantly increased by using of interactive e-learning techniques (simulations, animations, calculations) as well as non-interactive elements (schemas, photographs, multimedia).

2. Characteristics of the selected module - Ferro-alloys production

E-learning has been running at the Faculty of Metallurgy since 2004, when initial e-learning modules were developed and interactive electronic elements were implemented into education process within several subjects. Since that time, number of modules has increased and continues to rise. Modules are implemented into U-learn environment developed at the Technical University.

As an example Ferro-alloys production module is briefly introduced, which serves as a main education material for students of specialization Metallurgy of iron and steel. The module is divided into 11 lessons. The lessons are in html format and were created in Front page software. Module uses multimedia and interactive elements which increase visuality and interactivity of the education process. The lessons contain hyperlinks through which pictures and schemes can be maximized and simulation programs, education programs in excel application as well as video files can be started. Through hyperlinks in lessons students can get to many associated websites. By the use of key words it is possible to find necessary information through activation of corresponding lectures. Self-assessment tests and interactive tasks are component parts of every lesson. This interactive form enables student to test acquired knowledge. The module enables students to produce ferroalloy in electronic environment through simulation of technological processes, to check the accuracy of this production and through various applications understand the production under real conditions. Some examples from Ferro-alloys production module are shown in Figures 1-3. Figure 1 illustrates lesson with the video file showing FeCrC cascade tapping process.

....... 1 MMMMH Mac « «x>H"l in the fcta». w&l U M <• i*iiin tfc* pan or u UM4 into ilq VM ferau or pouraix too

FcClC R tastrii iat« thr imltl Mill Uiicknro antral 40 tm iFlft J J)

»—» Url IfCltcan* lint«

Figure 1. Lesson with video-file

There are simulations of production processes in some lessons, which can be started in Macromedia Flash software. The simulations enable students to understand technological production process of ferro-alloys and characterize and describe production flows. Figure 2 illustrates the technological production process of ferroalloys in electric furnace. Figure 3 illustrates education program for calculation of electrical quantities. Program enables to change values, transformer power calculation, calculate daily furnace productivity, as well as energy consumption. The calculated values are graphically represented and can be seen by clicking on the bottom part of the window.

Figure 2. Animation of technological production process of ferro-alloys in electric furnace

Figure 3. Education program for transformer power calculation

3. Students' evaluation of the course - Ferro-alloy production

Every education process should be evaluated in order to further improvement. Getting feedback from students is one of the evaluation methods, which delivers valued information. In our survey we aimed at measuring students' satisfaction with e-learning course - Ferro-alloy production.

3.1. Survey design

The sample of the survey included all students who graduated the course in last two years. The number of students was 32 and all of them were asked to complete the designed questionnaire. Data was gathered through online questionnaires. The main part of the survey design was questionnaire item design. A broad range of factors that can influence users' satisfaction with e-learning have been mentioned in the literature. Table 1 contains a summary of some literature relevant to all the factors affecting learners' satisfaction with e-learning, which were taken into account in questionnaire items design.

Table 1. Related references about factors affecting users' satisfaction with e-learning

Autor (s)

Factors

Arbaugh & Duray (2002) Perceived flexibility of the medium, perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use, media variety, prior

Wang (2003) Isik (2008)

Poelmans et al. (2008) Zaharias (2009)

instructor experience, virtual immediacy behaviors and interaction Learner interface, learning community, content, personalization Perceived usability, perceived quality, perceived value, computer self-efficacy Information quality, ease of use, system quality, intention, usefulness

Content, learning and support, visual design, navigation, accessibility, interactivity, self-assessment and learnability

The questionnaire provided Likert scale for rating statements related to the content (1, 2, 3), user friendliness (4, 5, 6), design (7, 8), interaction with others (10, 11), self-assessment and usefulness (12, 13). The items of the questionnaire are shown in Table 2. The items were evaluated on 5 point Likert scale, where 1 means "very dissatisfied" and 5 means "very satisfied". In addition to the five point Likert scaled items, the questionnaire provided the respondent the opportunity to make additional comments related to suggestions for improvement and main e-learning benefits.

3.2. Data analysis and discussion

Overall, the module received strong ratings. No items mean was under 3.2. The minimum, maximum and mean values for each item are presented in Table 2.

Table 2. Questionnaire items evaluation

Number Items Maximum Minimum Mean

1 Sufficiency of provided materials 5 4 4.6

2 Usefulness of provided external link 5 4 4.8

3 Content organization into lessons 5 4 4.8

4 Ease of using module components 5 2 3.8

5 Ease of navigation in the module 5 3 3.9

6 Ease to search the necessary materials 5 3 4.1

7 Visual design 5 4 4.7

8 Range of interactive applications to gain 5 4 4.6

attention and motivation

10 Easy of online communication with other 4 2 3.2

students

11 Easy of online communication with the 4 2 3.4

lecture

12 Sufficient feedback about acquired 5 3 3.7

knowledge through tests and tasks

13 Overall Usefulness 5 4 4.7

The highest ratings were assigned to the items related to content, design and usefulness. The mean values of the assessment for these items were over 4.6. The lowest satisfaction was perceived in ease of interaction with others. This could be caused by overload of obsolete server. The next lowest mean level was received for self-assessment possibilities. This limitation is caused by the character of tests not allowing verification of deeper knowledge. The largest range in assessment was observed for user friendliness, probably following from the different level of student's computer literacy, but the mean values suggest satisfaction.

Given opportunity to express their opinion on e-learning benefits they appreciated mainly visuality of lessons and ease of comprehension as well as interactive simulations. Among other benefits were mentioned the off-the-school learning opportunity and individual pace of learning. Suggestions for improvement obtained from students included mainly simplified handling of lesson modules and education programs starting.

4. Lecturers' experiences and opinions on e-learning

In order to investigate the opinions of lecturers on e-learning there were conducted interviews with those who have experiences with e-learning utilization in their subjects. As the most appreciated benefit of e-learning was pointed out visualization of explained lesson, attractivity of learning environment, providing of a platform for individual study and testing, especially for external students, and study programs with higher number of students.

On the other hand the preparation of e-learning materials was described as very demanding and time consuming. Common difficulties arising during practical use of e-learning in education dealt with students' ability to navigate through the e-learning modules occuring more frequently in case of less experienced external students and incompatibility modules with existing operation system and internet browser.

Lecturers see the possibility of improvement of the e-learning modules in the change of e-learning platform by transition from of the old u-Learn environment to newer and modern environment (interactive and dynamic web sites using the latest computer technologies and standards, AICC, SCORM, IMS, IEEE and ADL). Within the e-learning environment of the Technical University of Kosice eDoceo and Moodle systems can be used, enabling also the voice service, group browsing, videoconference format, file sharing, shared whiteboard, etc. By the change of the e-learning technical platform it is possible to achieve:

• newer and modern design of the e-platform,

• more interactive elements,

• new forms of interactive elements - e.g. interactive simulation of technological processes, reaction mechanisms, thermodynamics, simulation of economic parameters of production,

• interactive simulation of material and heat balance of technological processes,

• new forms of testing - interactive charts (for example determination of the maximum permissible values of the chemical composition of produced steel or ferro-alloys), interactive assembly of structural elements of technological devices, display of areas in ternary diagrams, etc.

References

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