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The impact of innovative learning environments on social competences of youth


The exponential development of learning environments supported by information and communication technology (ICT), coupled with new insights from the fields of cognitive and neuroscience and artificial intelligence (AI), is a huge challenge for both the educational system and youths and their social competences. This article defines the impact of an effective use of contemporary education technologies on young people’s engagement and their interest in collaborating with their peers and teachers on the level of interpersonal relationships. It investigates the teachers’ and parents’ perspective on youth and their cooperation when using ICT in the pedagogical process. The study confirms that innovative didactic approaches to teaching, supported by ICT, exert a positive influence on the collaboration between students, as well as between students and their teachers, and that youths, teachers and parents are all equally aware of that. Parents and teachers have a unified position in support of the idea that an effective use of ICT makes a positive contribution to collaboration between students, and thereby directly affects an increase in their social competences. ICT is becoming one of the important variables that affect the development of young people’s social competences. The 2-year study was conducted in the framework of a national project.

Categories: ALT, Publication

Supporting seamless learners: exploring patterns of multiple device use in an open and distance learning context


Educators need to be aware of not just what their students are learning, but how and why as well. This study investigates how Open and Distance Learning (ODL) students make use of multiple devices for learning, particularly how students use their devices together. This study is situated in the context of ‘seamless learning’, where ODL students learn at different times, in different locations and with the use of different technologies. Understanding the needs and learning practices of students can help to improve the design of learning experiences and support offered to students. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews at two ODL universities, one in Spain and one in South Africa. The results show that while students mainly use one digital device at a time, they sometimes make use of two or more devices together. This usage can be characterised as sequential (moving from one device to another) or simultaneous (using two or more devices together at a time). This article describes the study patterns associated with sequential and simultaneous use of multiple devices, facilitated by the use of different devices and synchronisation tools. A continuum of seamless learners is proposed that can be used to help identify levels of support required by ODL students.

Categories: ALT, Publication

The Community of Inquiry framework as learning design model: a case study in postgraduate online education


Interaction within online educational environments has long been advocated as conducive to learning, whether interaction between the learner and their teacher, the learner and online resources or the learner and their peers. The relationship among these three types of interaction is also receiving increasing attention, with the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework providing a method of interpreting this relationship in terms of the interplay of teaching presence, cognitive presence and social presence. This case study investigates the use of the CoI framework as a learning design model, showing how it was used to address specific issues in a postgraduate online module. Specifically, the framework informed decisions to strongly link together interaction with the video content, activity on discussion boards and release of new learning materials. Using discussion board posts and video analytics as the primary evidence of learner engagement, the findings show how learner activity significantly increased in both ‘social’ contexts and ‘cognitive’ contexts. More importantly, analysis also revealed strong correlations among participation in discussions, video viewing and module completion. The study suggests that the CoI framework is a robust model for learning design in online environments.

Categories: ALT, Publication

Learner experiences of a blended course incorporating a MOOC on Haskell functional programming


There is an increasing move in higher education to blend university courses to include a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). This article reports on the learner experiences of such a course, which incorporated a purposely designed MOOC as part of the blend, to teach Haskell functional programming. A survey revealed that students most valued the programming exercises, quizzes and instructional videos, while the follow-up focus group highlighted the flexibility of the MOOC, usefulness of the videos, drop-in sessions and programming exercises. The overall mix of activities was regarded as particularly useful. While discussions were not rated as highly in the survey, students in the focus group commented on their value, particularly for getting support from external learners. The perceived lack of face-to-face contact was the biggest issue; however, this reflected a lack of awareness of lab sessions which could have been better signposted. There was perceived to be a gap between the MOOC and the rest of the course in terms of level of difficulty and authenticity of learning tasks. These issues were positively addressed in subsequent runs of the course. The outcomes of this study are relevant to educators seeking to incorporate MOOCs into blended courses.

Categories: ALT, Publication

Developing and evaluating virtual anatomy resources for teaching allied health disciplines


Allied health professionals require an understanding of anatomy for purposes such as planning radiotherapy, or treating muscle imbalance. In practice, they will rarely see the structure they are treating, but seeing it during their education is invaluable. To reveal deep structures in the human body, neighbouring structures are unavoidably removed as a donated human body is dissected. Academic and clinical staff approached the challenge for students’ understanding of the male reproductive and urinary system, which is indeed disrupted by dissection. An existing radiotherapy planning instrument Virtual Environment for Radiotherapy Training was used to create videos of real patients’ internal structures. Structures difficult to see in dissection, models and images were transformed from magnetic resonance and computerised tomography scans into videos that appeared three-dimensional, for use by students learning anatomy. Qualitative evaluation of these anatomy videos suggested that they can be accessed at students’ convenience and can be customised with captions, pauses or quizzes. Quantitative evaluation suggested that offering assessment-related incentives may not result in all students choosing to access the videos, but that those who did performed better on both labelling and short answer explanations of related content on immediate and short-term testing.

Categories: ALT, Publication

Use of the game-based learning platform KAHOOT! to facilitate learner engagement in Animal Science students


Gamification of instructional activities is a useful approach that educators can use to promote more effective learning environments by increasing problem-solving, critical thinking and competence in the classroom. ‘KAHOOT!’ is an online multi-player real-time quiz game that allows students to measure learning in an engaging, immediate and entertaining manner. Lecturers can measure how well students absorb information and tailor their teaching to the next step or re-teach a concept after poor uptake by students. Seventy-two students participated in a 20-question survey about their experiences with ‘KAHOOT!’. Engagement scores were correlated with assessment grades to measure if ‘KAHOOT!’ affected student learning and achievement. The survey was deemed statistically sound in reliability and validity testing, and a principal components analysis (PCA) revealed that the attributes were strongly linked. There was no relationship between engagement score and assessment grade, indicating that ‘KAHOOT’!’ did not directly increase achievement. However, assessment of individual responses identified that students found it to be a positive social learning technology as it provided a fun, competitive and immersive end to a class. The benefits of fostering engagement, enjoyment and immersion within adult learning are especially important for maintaining a level of achievement within education to ensure that students are better equipped to deal with challenges and can turn a potential failure into an opportunity to improve their scholarship. The challenge provided by this study is to identify now how to measure the value of ‘fun’ activities in the tertiary classroom as a reinforcer for engagement, participation and learning.

Categories: ALT, Publication