Developing an Appropriate Design for E-Learning with Web-Mediated Teaching Methods to Enhance Low-Achieving Students’ Computing Skills: Five Studies in E-Learning Implementation

Developing an Appropriate Design for E-Learning with Web-Mediated Teaching Methods to Enhance Low-Achieving Students’ Computing Skills: Five Studies in E-Learning Implementation

Chia-Wen Tsai (Ming Chuan University, Taiwan) and Tsang-Hsiung Lee (National Chengchi University, Taiwan)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 30
DOI: 10.4018/ijdet.2012010101
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Vocational education in Taiwan is highly competitive in that it must attract sufficient student enrollment in the environment with a rapidly increasing number of schools. Many students in this context tend to have lower levels of academic achievement, and do not adequately get involved in their schoolwork. Under such constraints but moving toward more practical orientation, the authors conducted five experiments, applying web-mediated problem-based learning (PBL), self-regulated learning (SRL), blended learning (BL), or their combinations to help low-achieving students improve their computing skills. This study further develops appropriate course design and online teaching methods for both teachers and schools. Each of the five studies addressed a different project whose goal was to develop students’ computing skills in online classes. The five studies: (a) provide demonstrations of the effects of web-based PBL and SRL, (b) illustrate how to design and implement web-based PBL and SRL for low-achieving students, (c) provide refined interventions of web-based PBL and SRL based on multiple-phase experiences of real practices and reflections, and (d) demonstrate the effects of BL and the relevant technologies to provide more channels and opportunities for students to review and practice their computing skills.
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1. Introduction

Recently, web-assisted instruction has been advocated by contemporary educators and researchers (Liu & Tsai, 2008). While there has been much research on the effects of network technologies, little attention is paid to a rather practical and yet critical aspect of teaching methods in the online learning environment – how to design online courses and treatments to help students develop regular learning habits and further improve their learning.

1.1. The Need for Problem-Based Learning

The shift from the product-based economy to a knowledge-based economy results in an increased demand for knowledge workers, who must be capable of higher-order thinking and skills to solve complex problems in the workplace (Ong & Lai, 2006). Education and technical and vocational skills development should be fully utilized by all in the labour market (Palmer, 2009). To meet this challenge and remain competitive in the workplace, professionals should be highly skilled problem solvers, team players, and lifelong learners (Dunlap & Grabinger, 2003; Hmelo-Silver & Evensen, 2000); this is particularly true for those working in fields such as medicine, engineering, and software engineering and computer science (Dunlap, 2005). The importance of employees having a substantial foundation in basic skills and the ability to use technology to solve important problems is also indicated (Bottge, Rueda, Kwon, Grant, & LaRoque, 2009).

However, most teaching and learning efforts in Taiwan’s vocational schools have been devoted to helping students pass written tests. This materialistic aim puts students’ attention less on mastering application software and more on preparing for tests through memorization. Consequently, a student who has passed the examinations may still be unable to apply what was learned in school, and worse, lacks motivation to learn more in the future (Lee, Shen, & Tsai, 2008). Moreover, the courses in application software traditionally emphasize memorization by applying short, disjointed, lack-of-context examples. There is a wide gap between what is learnt in school and what is required in the workplace (Wu, 2000). There are tensions between academia and industry professionals on the design of curricula, and there is mutual disappointment between students and their teachers. Students are also concerned with the lack of immediate applicability of their studies (Booth, 2001; Kolikant & Ben-Ari, 2008). In this regard, the computer software education in vocational schools in Taiwan can hardly be deemed as effective.

In order to increase students’ learning motivation and develop practical skills, problem-based learning (PBL) is considered to be the most appropriate pedagogy. PBL uses real-world, simulated, contextualized problems in practice to motivate, focus and initiate content learning and skill development (Boud & Feletti, 1991; Bruer, 1993; Williams, 1993). It is believed that PBL could help vocational students to develop practical skills of application software through problem-solving processes.

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