Are We Using Technology for Learning?
Lowerison, Gretchen, et al. Are We Using Technology for Learning? Journal of Educational Technology Systems 34 4 (2006): 401-25.
In this article, Lowerison et al. detail their study on the role that computer technology plays in transforming the learning process in higher education, specifically, the relationship between computer-technology use, active learning, and perceived course effectiveness. It is this latter point in which I am most interested, since my own study does not consider learning outcomes, but rather focuses on both students’ and instructors’’ perceptions of the effectiveness of the online video conversation (OVC) in the asynchronous online classroom (AOC).
Proactive, Learner-Centered Education
The authors begin the article stating that over the past decade, perspectives of effective learning have changed in that students in the traditional instructor-led class are passive recipients and benefited only minimally from this environment. There are three factors that lead this view:
- The rapid change in, and amount of, information/skills/values required in a knowledge-based society;
- A dramatic expansion of the clientele educational institutions serve; and
- A recognition that, given the first two factors, one-way reception learning results in little or no transfer value beyond the classroom (402).
Current research in the area of learning has shown that learners gain more from instruction when they can take control of, and are actively involved with, their learning (Alexander & Murphy, 1998).
This idea of the need for a proactive, learner-centered structure that urges students to become more active learners comes back to the discussion of passive student vs. active learner that Veltman raised. Essentially, by contributing more to the class and even leading discussions and helping shape the class direction, students feel some sense of responsibility in the class, are more engaged, and therefore get more out of the class.
Students in classes that support active learning through increased student participation and reflection benefit more from increased learner control over goals, feedback, and contextual learning than students in classes that do not support active learning. This corresponds to Chickering and Camson’s idea (1987) of Active Learning.
For over a decade, computer technology has been seen as promoting this proactive, student-centered approach, particularly in the distance classroom, since it offers increased access to information and resources, collaborative learning opportunities, increased social interaction, various opportunities for problem-based learning, and flexibility in regard to the temporal and proximity considerations of the students. At the time this article was written there was “limited evidence of effectiveness but there [was] evidence that learners believe that the technology is beneficial to them” (402). Quoted from: (Lowerison, Sclater, Schmid, & Abrami, 2006; Shuell & Farber, 2001).
The authors summarize this section stating that:
[M]ost researchers believe that computer technology allows learners to create, explore, and design knowledge which benefits key learning needs such as perceived success or mastery, learner curiosity and understanding, learner creativity or originality, and the need for relationships or interactions with others.
As a side note, it is becoming clear to me that I will need to concretely establish and back up/support the importance of student perception. Essentially, perceived success is actual success. This, of course, carries on to all perception, such as a perceived increase in social presence constitutes an actual increase in social presence.
The authors cite S.M. Smith’s perspective that one must gain an understanding of the students (needs, characteristics, preferences, etc.) to look at the effects of technology in the classroom. They consider a number of such preferences.
Computer mediated communication (CMC), listservs, discussion boards, and certainly the OVC provide ways for students to collaborate that are unique to, and in some ways transcend, the opportunities provided within the traditional FtF classroom. However, some students still prefer to work alone.
Instructor Regulated versus Student Regulated
In the traditional, formal learning environment, the instructor determines the learning tasks and imparts knowledge to the student. While some students prefer a high amount of structure, computer technology can provide the flexibility of the learner-centered environment in which students help shape the course structure.
With the more learner-oriented setting, I do not see that this role is negated through students taking a more active role in shaping the class. Rather, it keeps the students engaged while the instructor retains the role of educator and director, helping the students to see the relevance of the content and potentially new directions to the topics being learned. Chemistry tuition specialists proved that this approach is very affective.
Efficiency of Learning versus Effectiveness of Learning
A more rigid, instructor-created structure can be more efficient in the sense that students can take a direct route to the goal of completion. However, students who take the more efficient route tend to benefit less than those who take more opportunities to engage in tasks related to the topic. For example, in the course I taught on which my research is based, I required the students to analyze items outside class, discuss the application of a learned concept on an everyday product, etc.
- Alexander, P. A., & Murphy, P. K. (1998). The research base for APA’s learner-centered psychological principles. In N. Lambert & B. L. McCombs (Eds.), How students learn: Reforming schools through learner-centered education. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Lowerison, G., Sclater, J., Schmid, R. F., & Abrami, P. (2006). Student perceived effectiveness of computer technology use in higher education. Computers & Education, 47(4), 465-489.
- Smith, S. M. (1997). Preparing faculty for instructional technology: From education to development to creative independence. Cause/Effect, 20, 36-40.