The final session of the EDGE 2010: e-Learning – The Horizon And Beyond… conference that I’m blogging about is entitled Perceptions of distance education in NL secondary schools by Trudi Johnson (MUN). The session was described in the program as:
During the winter of 2009‐2010 a province‐wide survey was conducted to determine whether the implementation of new on‐line computer technology, aimed at promoting meaningful teacher‐student interaction, is contributing to the successful integration of distance education programs in rural schools. This presentation will disclose the results of that survey and draw conclusions on changing views towards distance education.
Trudi began with the survey participants, which included:
- 33 teachers of the 35 online courses
- 106 schools (106 principals)
- 1476 registrants (884 students
The survey themes included:
- positive attitude towards distance education (100% of teachers / ~90% of principals / ~70% of parents)
- distance education represents perceived diminished support for rural schooling (59% of teachers / ~57% of principals / ~70% of parents)
- distance education represents diminished role of teachers (0% of teachers / ~20% of principals / ~55% of parents)
- should there be more courses online (67% of students / ~14% of parents/ ~70% of teachers / ~0% of principals)
When asked how they would prefer to take their courses, the students indicated (note this is a sample of students already enrolled in one or more online classes):
- no preference – 5%
- distance – 49%
- face-to-face – 46%
- reasons for their preference for distance courses: tended to be more relaxed, ability to review and pace, feel they become more independent, not pressured by their peers
In response to an open-ended question about the characteristics of a successful online student, the consensus among students, parents, teachers and principals were:
- computer literate
The consensus of the benefits of online learning included:
- teamwork skills
- better communication skills
- become more self-reliant and self-confident as learners (and even as people)
- preparing students for future studies (e.g., university-level coursework)by gaining time management skills, independent learning skills, technology skills, etc..
- greater access to courses that they would not otherwise have access to.
Interesting, the principals qualified their responses to most of these benefits by questioning whether the students may have already been the better students and possessed many of these soft skills
Further, 64% of students feel that they do not have as much interaction with their teachers as they would have in a face-to-face classroom. In their written comments, it became clear that students missed the physical presence of the teacher. Students, or at least, 55% of them felt that they worked harder in their distance courses than their face-to-face courses, while 80% reported they did much more independent work in their distance education courses. Finally, almost 50% felt distance education courses were more difficult than their face-to-face courses, with only ~40% indicating their face-to-face courses were more difficult and ~10% stating there was no difference.
There were a lot more statistics that Trudi presented, and she read out many quotations from the written comments, that I wasn’t able to capture. The afternoon session was condensed due to the lunch-time activities running late, so Trudi (and all of the other presenters were rushing through their slides).
Overall, the feelings towards distance education were mixed with almost all of the groups… Many saw the benefits of being able to provide access to courses and the potential of the technology, but there is also an undercurrent of disappointment with the student-teacher interaction and a sense of loss of more and more services in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
Note that one of the activities during the lunch-time was the Set’A'newey Performance Choir from Conne River;
who I had never seen before, but was very impressed by their performance.