Monday, 26 September 2011

New students, learning technology and digital literacies

During the Student Induction period the Elevate Team have been running sessions across UCS on how technologies can enhance your learning. As part of this we have used the Clickers (Turning Point) software to gather information.The aims of using the clickers included; demonstrating a technology they will use in their learning, and a rough snapshot across the first year student on technology use, and their perceptions.

Over 11 induction sessions (UCS Ipswich only) we collected a total of 617 people (students) votes on a number of questions.

The questions focused on the following key areas;

  • what technology have you used in your learning?

  • are you registered on Web 2.0 technologies?

  • how would you rate yourself in terms of technology?

The outcomes indicate the need to develop effective student development programmes around technology based learning and digital literacies.

In terms of what tasks they have completed previously in their learning, they where asked, “previously had you completed any of the following in your studies?”a) Been told to access some web based reading resources
b) Had to submit some work electronically for marking
c) Maintain an electronic portfolio

The results (n = 590), indicated the majority of the audience had been instructed to use web based resources in their learning (45.9%, and 33% when combined with answer b). While the number who had previously been exposed to electronic portfolios was very low (1.4%).

It must be stated the question design was poor, as it did not include a not used any of these options, and the multiple answer made it difficult to identify patterns. However, it did give an indication of low awareness around what is an e-Portfolio. A message which must be taken on board when staff roll out Mahara within their teaching.

An increasing trend within teaching is the combined use of internal and externally hosted software. For instance, our Induction focused on how students could take ownership of their learning and use Web 2.0 technologies to achieve a number of learning outcomes. A simple indicator of engagement with Web 2.0 technologies was to ask, have to a facebook account? The rationale being, if yes, they must have created an account, and therefore, engaged with Web 2.0 services. The results indicated our student base has engaged with Web 2.0 technologies, as 85% have a facebook account, 10% do not, and 5% would not say (n = 599).

A limitation of this question was they might not be on Facebook, but use other Web 2.0 services. This question didn’t accommodate this scenario.

The final question focused on how students perceived their confidence with using technology. They were asked how they would rate themselves, as either a technology (software) power user, novice, happy amateur or being anxious.

The definitions were as follows:

  • I’m a power user. I’m very competent with Microsoft Word, I’m a master of the pivot table, I update blogs, I’ve added content to youtube and I use Google Docs

  • I’m a novice. I’m very good as some aspects of Microsoft Office, I read lots of material from web sites, I access multimedia (video and audio) online, and I have used skype

  • I’m a happy amateur. I tend to use UCS computers and software, and share most of my word documents as email attachments. It meets my needs

  • I’m rather stressed and anxious when it comes to technology. I don’t feel in control, and what I’m currently doing isn’t very satisfactory

The key differences (when we explained to students) was the power user was a content creator, compared to the novice. While the happy amateur tended not to use intranet based information.

The outcomes indicate the majority of students rate themselves (n = 617) as a novice (66.3%), compared to a happy amateur (17.3%), a power user (11.5%), or rather anxious (4.9%). Many observations can be drawn from this, including we tend to have a new intake who have a really good grounding in software (desktop and web based).  It also indicates the need to devote resources to a well designed student support package, as 22% are not engaging with web based material would rate themselves as anxious and stressed with respect to technologies in learning.

Overall, there are some lessons we need to take on board. Although, these are good indicators for learning technologies, there are still a large group of students, who are not confident or digitally literate, around the use of externally hosted solutions. Therefore, we do need to ensure our student support mechanisms are fit for practice.

Lastly, the ice breaker question … how did students like our shirts? This question was asked by the Elevate Team member when they ran the session. The majority didn’t care (67.9%), while 5.3% hated it! The sample was 585 people ... a lesson for use next year.

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