Friday, 11 May 2007

Virtual Classroom: student issues

I've been wanting to get a better insight into student experience of Learning Technologies and get to understand some of the challenges they face.  Today was really useful.  Students mentioned the difficulties they were having accessing content from home

  • They sometimes found they didn't have the correct reader
  • Online stuff was sometimes down, crashed or logins did not seem to work
  •  When 3 weeks of blog entries were lost.
  • They talked about how they have to use the computers in the computer lab which can be extremely noisy (although some learners really liked the noise, so the need to cater for different preferences is most important).
  • Many of the university computer labs, including tech tower and the library still don't support all the WebCT features,primarily the chat feature.  This came as a big suprise
  • still easier to use paper to explore ideas, and only then to type them up in a clearly formatted way.  There's no easy way to doodle and sketch diagrams in a blog yet.  I'm with them on this!

It's so easy to forget these issues when we're trying to encourage staff to use learning technologies.

That said, they also saw some positives:

  • Interestingly, although I'm always a bit disapproving about using the VLE primarily as a content repository, they all mentioned how much they liked being able to get their lecture notes online
  • Some learners felt much more confident discussing online - I have to say that I'm with them on this one.  I'm an entirely different person online or using chat than I am in a face to face group situation.

  • Reading other learners' interpretations of a text often helped students who had struggled to understand the original
  • Blogs offered confidence - making is possible to see that peers were also struggling with work.

Students also pointed out tat blogs and discussion forums seemed to require a
more formal style of writing than they used in class or in a personal
journal.  This was tied in with the fact that written content often
becomes part of their assessment.

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