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A Multi-perspective View of the Learning Difficulties of Newly-enrolled Online Learners

A Multi-perspective View of the Learning Difficulties of Newly-enrolled Online Learners

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A Multi-perspective View of the Learning Difficulties of Newly-enrolled Online Learners

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  1. Presented by Cao, Wen Institute of Online Education (BeiwaiOnline) Beijing Foreign Studies University caowen@beiwaionline.com A Multi-perspective View of the Learning Difficulties of Newly-enrolled Online Learners

  2. Outline • Background • Data and findings • Significance

  3. What: The Context (1) • Learners’ learning difficulties are the concerns of educational researchers and practitioners. This research explores this issue against a context defined by the following components: • a post-diploma BA degree programme in English language education • a web-based programme • a part-time programme • newly-enrolled learners • a multi-perspective view

  4. What: The Context (2) • These definitions distinguish the target learners from the campus learners based on the assumption that they are experiencing more difficulties since: • They need to change from a conventional full-time learner to a part-time learner; • They need to change from a conventional teacher-lead learner to an autonomous learner; • They need to change from a conventional print-based learner to a web-based learner. Cao and Guan (2005:41): Year 1 to Year 2 learners constitute 70% of the total drop-outs.

  5. Why: The Aim • Content-wise: To discover if the target learners experience difficulties in the given context; if yes, what they are. • Method-wise: To discover if there is significance of different data collection methods; if yes, what it is. • Perspective-wise: To discover if there is significance of different perspectives; if yes, what it is. • The research results will inform the instructional design of an orientation course to the target learners.

  6. Where: The Place The Institute of Online Education (BeiwaiOnline), Beijing Foreign Studies University, has been running a web-based post-diploma BA degree programme in English language education since 2000. Till May 2007, the programme has had an accumulative 9167 learners at the institute’s 48 local centres nation-wide.

  7. When: The Time The research took place at 2006 spring, from February 20 to March 13, when a new group of learners joined the programme. The research focused particularly on the data collected within 14 days from the official commencement of the programme, the time during which all newly-enrolled learners took an orientation course.

  8. Who: The Subjects • 2006 Spring had an enrollment of 359 learners of post-diploma BA programme, at 8 local centres, among them 212 at Beijing local centre. • There were 8 administrators at local centres providing administrative support to target learners. • There were 10 tutors at local centres providing academic support to target learners.

  9. How: The Methods • Learner group: • interventional data: pre-orientation and post-orientation questionnaires; • naturally-occurring data: forum posts, email messages, telephone messages, synchronous programmes • Tutor group and administrator group: • interventional data: interviews

  10. Outline • Background • Data and findings • Significance

  11. Peripheral Learner Group (359) • Pre-orientation questionnaire: 307 learners; • Forum posts: 187 inquires • Email messages to HQ: 103 • Telephone messages to HQ: 31 • Synchronous programmes: VOB (78 inquires); VOC: 9 inquires • Post-orientation questionnaire: 300 learners

  12. Core Learner Group (212) • Email messages to Beijing LC: 49 inquires • Telephone messages to Beijing LC: 12 inquires • Face-to-face: 15 inquires • Journals: 136 learners

  13. Peripheral Tutor Group (10) • Post-orientation interview: 7 Peripheral Administrator Group (8) • Post-orientation interview: 8

  14. Content-related Findings • An Inventory of codes is formed and is applicable to the analysis of all types of difficulty-related data. (See Handout 1) • Learners experience all five-layer difficulties. (See I) • Top concerns of the five layers. (See II~IV)

  15. An Inventory of Codes • Learning autonomy layer • Language learning layer • Affect layer • Technology layer • System layer • Others 1) Categories on learning difficulty suggested from literatures; 2) Four sub-systems of learner support of BeiwaiOnline (Gu, 2006, p108); 3) Ten qualities of “whole-person” development of BeiwaiOnline (Gu, 2004, p29); 4) Goals of the orientation course;

  16. Method-related Findings • The importance of triangulation is confirmed. Data-collection using different methods, at different times and from different perspectives reveal overlapping and diversed data. • Interventional data (questionnaire and journals) provide richer information than naturally-occurring data. • Data that are most difficult to collect are those occurred in face-to-face situations. Data that are relatively easier to collect are those occurred in asynchronous situations. • An effective method to collect interventional data is to build the intervention into learners’ assessment scheme.

  17. Perspective-related Findings • Learners have a dominant role in the exploration of the learners’ learning difficulties. • Tutors and administrators’ views on learners’ learning difficulties can not fully reflect the reality of the learners. Therefore, they must have ways to help them become aware of learners’ needs in order to provide support services to their learners. (See I)

  18. Outline • Background • Data and findings • Significance

  19. Instructional design of the orientation course • Course generics • Resource design • Learner-support design • Tutor-support design • Administrator-support design • Assessment design Nature Content Time Media

  20. Thank You!