Scholarly article on topic 'Perceptions of Undergraduate Students about Synchronous Video Conference-based English Courses'

Perceptions of Undergraduate Students about Synchronous Video Conference-based English Courses Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Cennet Altıner

Abstract The use of videoconferencing technology in higher education has grown substantially in recent years although there is limited information about how these courses are perceived by students. The purpose of this study was to find out the perceptions of undergraduate students with regard to video conference-based English courses. The participants of the study included eighty 3rd year students at two state universities in Turkey. The data were collected through a questionnaire about the perceptions of video conference-based English courses. The results indicated that participants supported the view that university-level English courses should not be taught through video conferencing. Although they agreed upon many advantages of video conferencing, a vast majority of participants thought that English courses should be conducted only in a traditional classroom setting and they did not think video conferencing will help students to learn English better.

Academic research paper on topic "Perceptions of Undergraduate Students about Synchronous Video Conference-based English Courses"

Available online at www.sciencedirect.com

ScienceDirect

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 199 (2015) 627 - 633

GlobELT: An International Conference on Teaching and Learning English as an Additional

Language, Antalya - Turkey

Perceptions of undergraduate students about synchronous video conference-based English courses

Cennet Altinera*

aHacettepe University, Faculty of Education, Ankara 06800,Turkey

Abstract

The use of videoconferencing technology in higher education has grown substantially in recent years although there is limited information about how these courses are perceived by students. The purpose of this study was to find out the perceptions of undergraduate students with regard to video conference-based English courses. The participants of the study included eighty 3rd year students at two state universities in Turkey. The data were collected through a questionnaire about the perceptions of video conference-based English courses. The results indicated that participants supported the view that university-level English courses should not be taught through video conferencing. Although they agreed upon many advantages of video conferencing, a vast majority of participants thought that English courses should be conducted only in a traditional classroom setting and they did not think video conferencing will help students to learn English better.

© 2015 TheAuthors. PublishedbyElsevierLtd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of Hacettepe Universitesi.

Keywords: Distance learning; higher education; perceptions; English courses

1. Introduction

Advancing technology is changing the way courses are developed and delivered around the world, especially in higher education. Advanced computer technology has globalized learning through the development of different online vehicles, and higher education institutions are trying to keep up with the demand by developing online courses to meet the needs of the increasing number of students who wants to obtain education by these means (Liu,

* Corresponding author. Tel.:+90-276-221-2121 (4452); fax: :+90-276-221-2121 (4452) E-mail address: altinercennet@gmail.com; cennet.altiner@usak.edu.tr

1877-0428 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of Hacettepe Universitesi.

doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.07.589

2007). Videoconferencing is just one of the technological systems that can be used in distance education. Videoconferencing is a synchronous model for interactive voice, video and data transfer between two or more groups/people (Wiesemas& Wang, 2010).

There are numerous advantages of video conferencing in educational institutions. It is indicated in the literature that videoconferencing technology reduces time and costs between remote locations, fill gaps in teaching services, increases training productivity, enables meetings that would not be possible due to travel costs, and improves access to learning (Martin, 2005).

Several studies have examined students' attitudes towards videoconferencing in the classroom. Although students predominantly think that videoconferencing has certain benefits, such as increasing motivation, interaction, novelty and improvements in communication skills, not all students are comfortable with the new technology, which may stem from different learning styles, strategies and unfamiliarity with new technological tools (Martin, 2005).

In his study titled as "The Videoconferencing Classroom: What do students think?", Dogget (2008) found out that over 80% of the students responded favorably to the videoconferencing. However, 80% of the students stated that they would have been more comfortable in a conventional classroom setting. Additionally, videoconferencing was found to have no significant effect on students' achievement in the course.

In the study, "The Quality of Teaching and Learning via Videoconferencing", Knipe and Lee (2002) examined the quality of teaching and learning activities performed via video conferencing. The study was conducted with 66 students. 45 students participated in traditional, face-to-face courses and 21 students participated in distance education. After the study, the students participating in the course via distance education felt alone and as if they were not a part of class when they could not make eye contact with other students and the teacher. This situation impaired the concentration of these students and made a negative impact on their learning.

The study conducted by Umphrey et al. (2008) studied the impact of interaction, class communication experience and the relational features displayed by an instructor when engaging directly with students, compared to student perceptions in regard to video conferencing education. According to the research results, students believe that face-to-face education is more positive than video conferencing, in terms of the teacher's proximity, understanding the teacher, mutual communication in the classroom, success and quality. From these results, it seems that the most effective video-conference courses would include interaction and in-class engagement.

A study carried out by Marsh et al. (2010) investigated the benefits of taking the live implementation of learned theoretical information via video conference. The research took place with the cooperation of Sussex University and 6 schools. The video conference technologies provided a way to overcome the limitations of the learning center's physical site. Teacher trainees could access various class applications and practice with the instructor. Course records aided the trainees by refreshing their memories about subjects they forgot.

Gillies published a paper in 2008 titled "Students Perspectives on Videoconferencing in Teacher Education at a Distance". It was focused on the experiences of students who took courses via video conference for one year within the scope of initial teacher training. After the interviews, the students stated that the technological problems occurred in the sound, the image and the connection caused them to feel as if they were not real students. Moreover, live interaction with the teacher and receiving simultaneous answers to questions were situations frequently mentioned by the students.

In the study titled "Experiences with a Synchronous Virtual Classroom in Distance Education", Koppelman and Vranken (2008) aimed to determine the viewpoints of the teachers and 10 students in a synchronous computer technologies education. The students stated that they liked the courses given in short intervals and they had no problems with concentration. In addition, they noted that the applied technologies prevented the waste of time. While the students evaluated the sound quality quite good, some students stated that they did not like the delays.

Dallat et al. (1992) found a saving in travel time and cost as an anticipated advantage of videoconferencing after questioning both lecturers and students before and after they had used videoconferencing for teaching and learning. They also found that the university would enhance its public image due to this new approach to providing education. However, they stated that none of the tutors believed that videoconferencing had the potential to provide students with an entirely effective learning experience. They also found that some tutors dominated more than usual and students were not given the opportunities to interact with other students or the tutor. Participants did not found videoconferencing as an effective way of instruction delivery especially for the classes where a high level of interaction is essential.

There is only one experimental and longitudinal study that investigated the students' perceptions of videoconferencing in Turkish educational context. The study was conducted in Karadeniz Technical University and the results showed that the students' negative perspectives began to turn into more positive ones towards the end of the conference. In this study, technical problems take the lead among the other factors affecting the students' perceptions. Students had negative perceptions about the technical difficulties such as cuts and echoes of the sound, the freezing of the image. Students also stated that the insufficiency of interaction outside the class prevented being closer and intimate with the teacher. Most of the students think that the courses with special contexts are more appropriate for the synchronous distance education. In the observations, it was seen that students became bored and distracted when classes continued for long periods. The students' interviews revealed that five main factors that were technical problems, the teacher, environment, course and distance caused a change in students' perceptions (Kara, Çebi&Turgut, 2011). Therefore, this study will give further insight into students' perceptions of videoconferencing in the classroom from the perspective of undergraduate students taking English courses through videoconferencing in Turkish educational context.

Countries that put distance education in their educational policies are carrying out significant studies on this subject. In Turkey, many distance education centers and distance education programs are opening in order to keep up with this innovation. However, there are not enough studies looking into the effectiveness of synchronous videoconference based courses in Turkey. So, this study examines undergraduate students' perceptions of video conference-based English courses offered through distance education.

2. Method

2.1. Setting and participants

This research was conducted through a questionnaire administered to 80 undergraduate students at U§ak University (40 students) and Dicle University (40 students) in Turkey. Participants were all 3rd year students of Nursing Department and their ages range from 19 to 28. Eleven of the (27,5 %) students were male and twenty nine of them (72,5%) were females at Dicle University whereas eight of the students (20%) were male and thirty two of them (80%) were female at U§ak University. All of the students at U§ak University indicated that they had taken video conference-based English courses before while none of the students at Dicle University had taken English courses through video conferencing. Both groups are homogeneous in terms of number of participants, their departments and years of study at university.

2.2. Instrument

A questionnaire was developed for this study to find out the perceptions of undergraduate students at U§ak University and Dicle University about the English courses offered through video conferencing. The questionnaire is divided into two sections. The first section consists of demographic information and the second section is developed on a Likert type of 5-point scale for data collection. The first section asks about gender, age, department, and years of study.

The second part of the questionnaire, which consists of 25 items presented on a Likert type of a 5-point scale asks the participants about their perceptions of video conference-based university-level English courses. The survey included questions measuring three components of instruction. Based on previous research and feedback from the faculty members at Hacettepe University, topics about video conference-based courses offered through distance education were identified and specific items for these topics were generated. Some of the items on the questionnaire were adapted from previously used questionnaires, mainly from Ashley (2010) and Otter et al. (2013). The questionnaire was checked by three professors at the Department of English Language Education at Hacettepe University for validity and reliability purposes. The 25-item questionnaire includes questions about perceptions of video conference-based English courses versus traditional English courses, affective factors of students such as motivation, interaction, instructors in a video conference-based class, technological issues, applicability and practicality issues of courses offered through video conferencing technology.

2.3. Procedures for data collection and analysis

After the questionnaire was checked by three professors, necessary changes were made. Surveys were administrated as a paper-and-pencil survey at beginning of the English classes at Nursing Departments of U§ak University by the researcher herself and Dicle University by the researcher's colleague. Before surveys were administrated, students were informed about the nature of the study and their participation was voluntary.

The analysis of the questionnaire data was planned to reveal the perceptions of undergraduate students of Nursing Department at U§ak University and Dicle University about the video technology-based university-level English courses in relation to three categories on the questionnaire which are "video conference-based versus traditional English courses", "students who take English courses through video conferencing"; and "instructors who teach video conference-based English classes". The quantitative data received from participants were put into the Statistical Package of Social Sciences (SPSS) version 21 for statistical analysis of the information. Afterwards, frequencies and percentages were calculated for each question.

3. Findings

3.1. Perceptions with regard to video conference-based English courses versus traditional English courses

In terms of the overall quality of video conference-based English courses and traditional English courses, 85% of the students at U§ak University (70% of them strongly) disagreed that the overall quality of video conference-based English courses is better than that of traditional English courses while 60% of the students at Dicle University (22,5% of them strongly) disagreed with this statement.

When students were asked whether video conference-based English courses are easier than traditional English courses, 47, 5% of the students at U§ak University disagreed while the students at Dicle University were undecided about this issue (40% of them neither agree nor disagree). Besides, 65% of the students at U§ak University disagreed that video conference-based English courses require more of a student's time than traditional English courses which is in line with the results of Dicle University (45% of them disagreed).

When they were asked if students learn more in video conference-based English courses than they learn in traditional English courses, 72,5% of the students at U§ak University (50% of them strongly) and 47,5% of the students at Dicle University disagreed. Also, a vast number of students at Dicle University (37, 5% of them) were undecided about this issue which can stem from the fact that they have never taken a video conference-based courses before. On the other hand, both groups of students (57,5% of students at U§ak University and 52,5% of them at Dicle University) support the idea that video conference-based classrooms are more practical for students.

Besides, students were asked about their perceptions regarding lecture materials such as powerpoints in video conference-based classes. Both groups of students (65% of them at U§ak University and 55% of them at Dicle University) agree that the supporting materials provided through the video conference-based courses such as powerpoints are helpful in terms of providing opportunity to review materials later on. However, a vast majority of them (82, 5% of them at U§ak University and 87, 5% of them at Dicle University) agreed that technical problems of video conference-based English courses (e.g. screen image quality, sound problems) can be frustrating for them.

3.2. Perceptions with regard to the students who take video conference-based English courses versus traditional English courses

In this subsection, students were asked about their perceptions of students taking English courses through video conferencing. 70% of the students at U§ak University (35% of them strongly) and 57,5% of the students at Dicle University agreed that students who take video conference-based English courses can have difficulty in motivating themselves and maintaining their learning motivation in the course. On the other hand, 47, 5% of the students at U§ak University and 50% of them at Dicle University agreed that students feel more relaxed in a video conference-based classroom.

In terms of course interaction, students were asked about their connections with their friends and course instructor in a video conference-based course. 60% of the students at U§ak University and 40% of the students at Dicle University agreed with the statement of "Students feel more disconnected from their teachers when taking video conference-based English courses than when taking traditional English courses." To the statement of "Students feel more disconnected from other students when taking video conference-based English courses than when taking traditional English courses", 40% of the students at Dicle University agreed, but 42, 5% of the respondents at U§ak University disagreed. Considering that students at U§ak University have experienced video conferencing before, they do not think that this way of learning is not a barrier for their interaction with their classmates.

On the other hand, a vast majority of students from both universities (67,5% of them at U§ak University and 57,5% of them at Dicle University) thought that students in video conference-based courses may easily get bored because of listening long lectures accompanied by powerpoints. As an important advantage of video conference-based courses, 82,5% of participants from U§ak University (40% of them strongly) and 80% of them from Dicle University (30% of them strongly) agreed that students in a video conference-based English course can easily make up missed classes because classes and powerpoint slides are recorded.

Also, participants were asked whether video conference-based courses help students to have better English skills than the students in traditional English classrooms.62, 5% of the students at U§ak University (37, 5% of them strongly) disagreed with the statement "Students who take video conference-based English courses will have better reading skills than students who take traditional English courses." whereas 40% of the students at Dicle University neither agree nor disagree with this statement. With regard to writing skills, majority of students from U§ak University (55% of them) did not support the idea that students taking video conference-based English courses will have better writing skill while most of the students at Dicle University were neutral about this statement (37,5% of them neither agree nor disagree). In terms of listening skills, pronunciation and intonation, most of the participants from U§ak University (60% of them) did not think that students taking video conference-based English classes would have any superiority compared with students taking English classes in a classroom setting. As opposed to the participants from U§ak University, 55% of the students from Dicle University agreed that students taking English courses through video conferencing have better pronunciation, intonation and listening skills. Similarly with the other skills of English, participants from U§ak University (57,5% of them) disagreed that students taking video conference-based English classes acquire grammar rules better than students learning English in a traditional classroom whereas respondents from Dicle University were again neutral about this issue which might result from the fact that they had not experienced video conference-based classes before.

3.3. Perceptions with regard to the instructors who teach video conference-based English courses versus traditional English courses

In this subsection, students were asked about their perceptions of instructors teaching video conference-based English classes. Both groups of participants from U§ak University and Dicle University (77, 5% of them at U§ak University and 45% of them at Dicle University) disagreed that instructors are more available in video conference-based English classes than in traditional English classes.

To the statement of "Instructors give better quality instruction in video conference-based English courses than in traditional English courses," 65% of the students at U§ak University (35% of them strongly) disagreed whereas the majority of students at Dicle University (42, 5%) neither agreed nor disagreed. On the other hand, both groups (82, 5% of them at U§ak University and 57, 5% of them at Dicle University) disagreed that instructors establish better rapport with students in video conference-based English courses than in traditional English courses. These results are supported by the previous research. According to the research results of Umphrey et al. (2008), students believe that face-to-face education is more positive than video conferencing, in terms of the teacher's proximity, understanding the teacher, mutual communication in the classroom, success and quality. From these results, it seems that the most effective video-conference courses would include interaction and in-class engagement.

60% of the participants from U§ak University also disagreed that instructors give feedback to students quicker in video conference-based English courses than in traditional courses while 37,5% of the respondents from

DicleUniversity were undecided about this statement. Contrary to this result, 44, 5% of the students at U§ak University and 57, 5% of them at Dicle University agreed that instructors teaching video conference-based English courses are usually more capable of using technology than instructors teaching traditional English courses.

3.4. Perceptions with regard to the way of the delivery of English courses at university level

Results of the study show that both the students at U§ak University and Dicle University support the view that university-level English courses should not be taught through video conferencing. When they were asked about whether university-level English courses should be only offered in traditional face-to-face classroom setting, 77,5% of the students at U§ak University who have taken video conference-based English courses before (57,5% of them strongly) agreed with this idea which shows that students at U§ak University were not glad with their video conference-based English courses at all. At Dicle University, the vast majority of students (45% of them) even though they had never taken a video conference-based English course before agreed that university-level English courses should be only offered in traditional classroom setting which shows that they are suspicious about the effectiveness of the English courses taught through video conferencing. These findings are also supported by the results of Dogget's (2008) study in which 80% of the students stated that they would have been more comfortable in a conventional classroom setting.

In line with this result, 57, 5% of students at U§ak University (27,5% of them strongly) disagreed with the statement "I would take different courses offered through video conferencing technology." which again indicates that video conference-based English courses did not meet needs of students at U§ak University. Supporting this finding, 55% of the students at Dicle University indicated that they would not take other courses offered through video conferencing technology (25% of them strongly). These results implies that students of U§ak University and Dicle University not only believe that English courses should be only taught in traditional classroom setting, but also think that video conferencing technology will not be suitable for other courses as well.

4. 4. Discussion and conclusion

This study provides evidence that perceptions of both groups of students about English courses offered through video conferencing significantly differ from their perceptions of traditional English courses offered in a classroom setting. Especially, students of U§ak University, the group of students who had taken video conference-based English courses before, tended to rate courses offered through video conferencing more negatively than the students of Dicle University who had never been to a video conference-based classroom. A clear understanding of student perceptions of video conference-based courses is important since these perceptions could influence behavior such as student learning, effort, and overall satisfaction with the course. Ferreira and Santoso (2008) found that student performance was affected by perceptions; negative perceptions led to negative performance and positive perceptions led to positive performance.

Majority of the participants in general listed the practicality of video conference-based courses and the opportunity to review course materials later on because courses are recorded as advantages of courses offered through video conferencing. They also agreed that students feel more relaxed in a video conference-based classroom which affects affective filter of students in a more positive way.

Despite these advantages, a vast majority of participants think that English courses should be conducted only in a traditional classroom setting. They do not think video conferencing will help students to learn English better and they perceive video conferencing technology as a system which has many drawbacks. The primary concern raised by students in this study is the perception that video conferencing technology is a barrier to their interaction with the course instructor which supports the result of Gillies'sstudy (2008) indicating that students regarded the impossibility of seeing the teacher outside as an insufficiency. Another limitation of this format is that it requires good network connections; otherwise, participants think that technical problems of video conference-based English courses (e.g. screen image quality, sound problems, frozen images) can be frustrating for the students which can affect learning in a negative way. This conclusion is in compliance with the study carried out by Koppelman and Vraklen (2008) in which faulty technology and bad screen image quality caused students to feel as if they were not real students. As an another important drawback, students perceive the video conference-based classes more boring

compared with traditional classes because of listening long lectures accompanied by PowerPoint slides and they find it difficult to motivate themselves in these classes and keeping their interest during the course.

To improve the quality of these classes, the instructor of the video conference-based course should prefer educational methods and techniques in which they can activate the students and interact with them rather than just giving long lectures. Students' interest and motivation can be sustained if video conference-based lectures are taught in short periods with frequent intervals. Also, universities offering video conference-based courses through distance education may provide the students a way to meet the teacher outside the course hours in order to ask any questions. To solve the technical problems of a video conference-based course, a technician present in a course could deal with them so that lessons continue before students become too distracted.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Prof. Dr. Mehmet Demirezen at Hacettepe University for his valuable comments and guidance during this study was conducted and my colleague SevimGune§ at Dicle University for the collection of data.

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