Student Learning in an Online Environment: Differences in Study Approaches

Student Learning in an Online Environment: Differences in Study Approaches

Rodney Arambewela (Deakin University, Geelong, Australia)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-753-4.ch015
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The increasing class sizes, changing expectations, diversity and mobility of students and the use of computer technology in teaching have challenged universities, world over, to review educational courses and delivery to provide a more satisfying learning experience to students. Understanding how students learn is essential in this process and continuous enquiry into teaching practices for their effectiveness towards enhancement of student learning outcomes is therefore considered a vital strategy. This chapter discusses an exploratory study on the differences in the learning approaches of a group of students in a second year marketing course in an Australian university. E-learning system remains the primary communication and the learning resource of these students. Results indicate that there are no significant differences in the study approaches of students but on average they seem to demonstrate deep learning than surface learning although they may differ in terms of the learning contexts. The study also reveals that in comparison female students and older aged students seem to demonstrate deep learning orientations than surface learning orientations.
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The students participated in the study belong to a second year marketing course in an undergraduate commerce degree. The subject is offered each year in multiple campuses both as on campus and off campus modes with face to face teaching supported by an E-learning system (WebCT equivalent) as the primary communication and learning resource for both modes. The course attracts around 300 students each semester. Two hour lectures and one hour tutorial classes are conducted each week and the tutorials are focussed on discussions on topics and concepts covered in the lecture of the previous week, chapter end questions and selected case studies. Students are able to access the suggested answers to tutorial questions discussed in each tutorial the following week and to engage in a discussion with teachers and their peers via the E-learning system discussion folder. The assessment regime comprise of well paced three progressive assessment tasks – multiple choice test, learning reflections and the final exam. The first two assessment tasks are conducted online.

The increased dependency of some students on the E- learning system as their only learning resource and less exposure to face to face teaching has been of concern to many academics (Saunders and Klemming, 2003;Jackson, 2003). This is due to the fact that many students work either full time or part time although they are enrolled as full time day students or they consider internet based learning resources are more than adequate to achieve a pass. This would inevitably have implications on student learning environment, teaching strategies, and the uniformity of assessment. Less face to face contact for some students has reduced opportunities for the application of different teaching and learning contexts which cannot be delivered successfully to students who depend entirely on the online environment for all their learning resources. For the purpose of this study, lectures and tutorial classes are considered as the learning environment and tutorial discussions, group work and assessment processes are regarded as the learning context.

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