Data Communications and E-Learning

Data Communications and E-Learning

Michael W. Dixon (Murdoch University, Australia), Johan M. Karlsson (Lund Institute of Technology, Sweden) and Tanya J. McGill (Murdoch University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch145
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Abstract

Information and communications technology (ICT) has increasingly influenced higher education. Computer-based packages and other learning objects provide a useful supplement to students studying conventionally by illustrating aspects of the curriculum. Other packages are directed at aspects of course administration such as automated assessment (for example, see Randolph et al. (2002)). Initially such software and materials played only a supplementary role in course offerings, but this has changed rapidly. For example, Coleman et al. (1998) describe a successful early attempt to replace all lecturing with computer-aided learning. Remote delivery of courses also became a viable option because of the advent of the WWW. For example, Petre and Price (1997) report on their experiences conducting electronic tutorials for computing courses. Online education of various sorts is now routinely available to vast numbers of students (Alexander, 2001; Chen & Dwyer, 2003; Peffers & Bloom, 1999). Various terms have been used to label or describe forms of education supported by information technology. These include e-learning (e.g., Alexander, 2001; Campbell, 2004), Web-based learning (e.g. Huerta, Ryan & Igbaria, 2003; Khosrow-Pour, 2002), online learning (e.g., Simon, Brooks & Wilkes, 2003), distributed learning and technology- mediated learning (e.g., Alavi & Leidner, 2001); with e-learning probably the most commonly used term used to describe education and training that networks such as the Internet support. E-learning has become of increasing importance for various reasons. These include the rise of the information and global economy and the emergence of a consumer culture. Students demand a flexible structure so that they can study, work and participate in family life at the same time (Campbell, 2004). This flexibility is reflected in alternative delivery methods that include online learning and Internet use. We have also become more sensitive to cultural and gender differences, and to the learning needs of the challenged. These needs may be addressed by e-learning (Campbell, 2004).
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Introduction

Information and communications technology (ICT) has increasingly influenced higher education. Computer-based packages and other learning objects provide a useful supplement to students studying conventionally by illustrating aspects of the curriculum. Other packages are directed at aspects of course administration such as automated assessment (for example, see Randolph et al. (2002)). Initially such software and materials played only a supplementary role in course offerings, but this has changed rapidly. For example, Coleman et al. (1998) describe a successful early attempt to replace all lecturing with computer-aided learning. Remote delivery of courses also became a viable option because of the advent of the WWW. For example, Petre and Price (1997) report on their experiences conducting electronic tutorials for computing courses. Online education of various sorts is now routinely available to vast numbers of students (Alexander, 2001; Chen & Dwyer, 2003; Peffers & Bloom, 1999). Various terms have been used to label or describe forms of education supported by information technology. These include e-learning (e.g., Alexander, 2001; Campbell, 2004), Web-based learning (e.g. Huerta, Ryan & Igbaria, 2003; Khosrow-Pour, 2002), online learning (e.g., Simon, Brooks & Wilkes, 2003), distributed learning and technology-mediated learning (e.g., Alavi & Leidner, 2001); with e-learning probably the most commonly used term used to describe education and training that networks such as the Internet support.

E-learning has become of increasing importance for various reasons. These include the rise of the information and global economy and the emergence of a consumer culture. Students demand a flexible structure so that they can study, work and participate in family life at the same time (Campbell, 2004). This flexibility is reflected in alternative delivery methods that include online learning and Internet use. We have also become more sensitive to cultural and gender differences, and to the learning needs of the challenged. These needs may be addressed by e-learning (Campbell, 2004).

A number of studies have compared student learning and satisfaction between e-learning and traditional classroom teaching. In an early study, Hiltz and Wellman (1997) found that mastery of course material was equal or superior to that in the traditional classroom and that e-learning students were more satisfied with their learning on a number of dimensions. In particular, they found that the more students perceived that collaborative learning was taking place, the more likely they were to rate their learning outcomes as superior to those achieved in the traditional classroom. They did however identify some disadvantages to e-learning. These included ease of procrastination and information overload. More recently, Piccoli, Ahmad and Ives (2001) found that the academic performance of students in the two environments was similar, but that while e-learning students had higher levels of self-efficacy, they were less satisfied with the learning process. Alexander’s comment that “the use of information technology does not of itself improve learning” (Alexander, 2001, p. 241) perhaps highlights the fact that e-learning can be many things and that the intention to introduce e-learning is no guarantee of success.

The different types of teaching and learning activities that are made possible by the Internet are shown in Figure 1. Harasim and Hiltz (1995) divided these activities into two categories: learner or teacher centered. There is, however, no common agreement about which category is the best and many researchers argue for a mixture of learning activities, emphasizing group learning (Bento & Schuster, 2003; Klobas & Renzi, 2003). At the moment there still seems to be an overemphasis on teacher centered approaches, which hopefully will slowly change as a better knowledge of e-learning develops.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Distributed Learning: Using a wide range of information technologies to provide learning opportunities beyond the bounds of the traditional classroom.

Learning and Content Management Systems (LCMS): These systems provide a set of tools for publishing, communicating, and tracking student activity.

Web-Based Learning (WBL): Use of Internet technologies for delivering instruction.

Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA): A data communications industry certification.

Online Learning: An inclusive term for any form of learning supported by computer based training.

Pervasive Computing: Technology that has moved beyond the personal computer to everyday devices with embedded technology and connectivity. The goal of pervasive computing is to create an environment where the connectivity of devices is embedded in such a way that the connectivity is unobtrusive and always available.

This work was previously published in Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology: edited by M. Khosrow-Pour, pp. 685-690, copyright 2005 by Information Science Reference, formerly known as Idea Group Reference (an imprint of IGI Global)

Learning Objects: Small (relative to the size of an entire course) instructional components that can be reused in different learning contexts. Learning objects are generally considered to be digital materials deliverable over the Internet.

Blended Learning: E-learning used in conjunction with other teaching and learning methods.

E-Learning: The use of new multimedia technologies and the Internet to improve the quality of learning.

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