Analyze advanced instructional technologies in practice in a learning context. It’s quite possible, or even likely, that an ensemble of technologies may be used in a certain educational practice. This could be a description of a practice in which you are or have been involved, or plans you have to implement a practice using instructional technologies, or a case study of an interesting practice someone else has applied and that you would find beneficial to research and analyze. Use as many of the theory concepts defined by members of the group in their published Work 1 as you can, with references and links to the published works of the other course participants.
The University of the West Indies (UWI) provides higher education services primarily to persons living within the Caribbean basin. There are four UWI campuses- the Mona campus (Jamaica), the St Augustine campus (Trinidad and Tobago), the Cave Hill campus (Barbados), and the newest of all campuses, the Open Campus. The University of the West Indies Open Campus (UWIOC) was approved for development in the year 2007 as part of the UWI’s 2007- 2012 Strategic Plan. It actually represents the redefining of several other legacy outreach units of the UWI, with the School of Continuing Studies and the University of the West Indies Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC) being the two main ones.
The University of the West Indies’ (UWI’s) newest campus, the Open Campus, was formed in 2008, and is predicated on the principle that the same high-quality university education, research and services that the UWI offers at their traditional campuses should be open and available to all people- inside and outside of the Caribbean region.
Since 2008, the University of the West Indies Open campus (UWIOC) has offered pre-university, undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education study programs. At present, it delivers courses by distance, blended, online and face-to-face learning modes. Due to technological advancements and life-style changes, students now wish to be able to access these services on their mobile, hand-held devices. The UWI, Open Campus, in an effort to increase its openness, must now find and apply new technologies that would enable their programs’ content to be accessible from learners’ mobile devices. The Open Campus endeavors to adopt quality teaching and learning experiences, innovative pedagogic design, relevant research and community partnerships to deliver face-to-face, blended and online learning.
Despite its efforts to provide high quality products and services, and a mandate to increase programmes and courses offered by three-fold within a 5-year period (Thurab-Nkhosi, 2009), far too many UWIO learners are dropping out without completing their degree, which would suggest that some things are not working well for them in the current teaching and learning environment. In fact, some learners seem to think that the learning space is impersonal and not at all student friendly because learning in programs takes place mainly through the reading of printed course materials and textbooks, while assessment is conducted via the completion of online quizzes and pencil and paper mid-term and final assessments, all of which are requirements for completion of their degree program. Learners also received links to YouTube videos, PowerPoint presentations and other online resources.
UWIOC’s office administration and registry has reported a marked disparity between dropouts of the face-to-face programmes versus the rate of attrition in their own online courses. A survey of two hundred and fifty UWIOC Bachelors degree program dropouts was conducted to elicit reasons for them dropping out of their particular online program. The findings revealed a myriad number of possible contributory factors. Consistent with the findings of Willging and Johnson (2004), the most significant reasons for dropping out included dissatisfaction with the learning environment, low confidence levels in distance learning and a de-personalized learning environment.
Two of these factors point to a learning environment that fails to satisfy the user, emotionally and otherwise. Picciano (2002) states that “both students and faculty typically report increased satisfaction in online courses depending on the quality and quantity of interactions” (p. 22). Garrison and Cleveland-Innes (2005) suggest that the interactions within online, face-to-face, or hybrid learning environments must be more than just a participatory activity, but should instead be a structured and systematic mechanism for building a community of learners. They further point out that as a necessity, such interactions must support the exploration and critique of ideas; and should be one in which the process of critical inquiry can be scaffolded and modeled (p. 134). Based on the findings of these studies, the UWIOC should endeavor to ensure that it's learning environment does the following:
1. Provide increased opportunities for human interaction, while simultaneously improving the quality of those interactions
2. Deepen levels of communication by making it easier for students to reach out to other participants in their courses and programs
3. Personalize learning
4. Include platforms for video-conferencing that allow student-student and student- lecturer interactions
5. Use more intuitive and student-friendly software that minimizes the prerequisite technical preparation of the learner
6. Make its course material more interesting, interactive, engaging and by ensuring that the learning design accomodates for varying learning styles
7. Increase opportunities for multiple-levels of feedback, especially peer-feedback
Additionally, there is a need to investigate the socio-constructivist dimensions of the online learning environment that may be contibuting to the differential between rates of attrition/ retention in UWI's face-to-face programs as opposed to the rates observed in UWIOC's programs.
According to Angelino, Williams and Natvig (2007), “Attrition rates are 10 – 20% higher for classes taught through distance education than it is for classes taught in a face-to-face setting, particularly in the case of higher education.” They go on to identify factors that could ameliorate unfavorable conditions in online learning that negatively affect student retention and persistence. Angelino, Williams and Natvig (2007) state that the outcomes could be different if educators developed relationships with their students, tailored learning strategies to suit class content and students’ knowledge, and applied differentiated learning strategies. These three actions significantly improve and increase learner engagement, which according to Schaeffer & Konetes (2010), positively impacts retention rates and student success in an online course. Including peer feedback can be one effective way to improve online course delivery since it creates opportunities for learners to gain recognition of their ideas, enables them to access multiple perspectives, and facilitates receipt of a greater quantity of feedback than would have been received from the instructor alone (Ertmer,Richardson, Belland, Camin, Connolly, Coulthard, Lei & Mong, 2007). Numerous studies have shown that social interaction has a positive impact on learning, increasing levels of student engagement in, and commitment to, online programs of study. According to Ertmer et al (2007), it provides opportunities for peers to review and share feedback on each other’s work, which not only reinforces their learning, but also enables them to achieve higher understanding of course content. This is especially important given the social background of many of UWIOC’s learners.
UWIOC’s students are typically working adults whose busy schedules, full-time employment and domestic demands make it difficult for them to attend face-to-face classes. UWIOC’s students have many competing interest that, at times, causes their volition to wane. Some are able to persist at their programs, but others leave. The proposed project, “Moodle with PHP & SQL- Let’s Make the Most of Moodle” aims to ameliorate this situation by applying Universal Instructional Design (UID) principles to make the learning space more learner-centred and engaging by integrating Moodle add-ons that enable social interactions through video chat, by building a repository of shared student artifacts and by making videos of course material available. The purpose of this project is therfore to therefore the flexibility, consistency, accessibility, explicitness, and supportiveness of UWIOC's programs so that learners can be more successful.
The “Moodle with PHP & SQL- Let’s Make the Most of Moodle” innovation is designed to achieve these objectives by augmenting the teaching and learning systems with the use of Hypertext Preprocessor and the MySQL Database 5.5, both of which will improve performance and scalability of UWIOC’s multi-processor hardware architectures. This will be done to enable modification of the learning space to facilitate greater integration of services, connectivity and real-time student support and interaction, and most importantly to enable the addition of visualization, Student Lifecycle ManageLife-cycleeo chat and Webcasting add-ons and plug-ins, along with making simple adjustment within Moodle that allows for enlargement of student roles and responsibilities.
SQL, PHP, and Moodle may seem like a haphazard combination of words, but these three words when combined, in fact can make a Moodle server work seamlessly.
SQL is an open source database software, which may not seem so special at first glance but is the go to for database software for websites such as Facebook and google due to its flawless operation and failure redundancies. The above mentioned are all factors that contribute to the efficient and quick interworking of Learning Integrated Server Software.
PHP (recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) is a widely used open source general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML. Now the above may not have much meaning to you, but to a web developer this is very good as it allows for quicker, more responsive feature filled servers which is something that may contribute to running Learning Integrated Server Software (such as Moodle).
Speaking of Moodle, what is Moodle? Moodle (acronym for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) (stylized in lower-case as Moodle) is a free software e-learning platform, also known as a Learning Management System, or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Put simply it is open source software that enables a learning environment similar to that of a classroom, without the hassle of most of the learning software. Moodle allows for integration of PHP protocols and SQL which make for a great combination of infrastructure for better add-ons and quicker more interactive pages. PHP is also great for integrating computer/ server-side languages which may me better suited to a task, like Ruby, C++, C, Java, Ajax and many more.
All of the above actually contributes to why google and twitter functions so flawlessly, and the intent is to confer the same benefits to Moodle.Garrison and Vaughan (2012) state that even a decade ago, leaders in higher education were being challenged to position their institutions to meet the connectivity opportunities and expectations for higher quality learning experiences” (p. 1). Today this onerous responsibility is even greater than before, especially finding and utilizing instructional technologies and activities that promote online course interactions. In fact, although research findings have pointed to the value of interaction in the online classroom, providing the appropriate amounts and types of interaction remains a challenge to distance education practitioners” (Sue, Bonk, Magjuka, Liu & Lee, 2005; Spiro, 2011; Bowen, Chingos, Lack & Nygren, 2012;). This is revealed in Bogdanov (2011) exploratory study, which investigated 166 groups at the New Bulgarian University over the academic year 2010-2011. This investigation showed that the faculty pedagogical uptake of technology in blended English language courses. The findings showed a need for instructional design support in transforming learning from a passive, into a more active learning experience.
“Moodle with PHP & SQL- Let’s Make the Most of Moodle” is grounded in a similar philosophy of learning that has been expounded by Lee, Srinivasan, Traila, Lewis and Lopez (2012). This philosophy identifies support for student learning as a key element in optimizing students’ learning experiences in any learning environment, online, face-to-face and hybrid (p. 158). More specifically, they identified a strong positive correlation between learners’ perception of instructional, peer, and technical support was positively, and their overall satisfaction of the online course. As such, Lee, Srinivasan, Traila, Lewis and Lopez (2012), posit that facilitators should communicate what types of support are available to students, and ought to provide an easy way of students to access the support” (p. 158).
According to Bonk and Zhang (2006), the increasing presence of Generations X and Y, as well as younger learners, in online courses requires that educators design their courses for greater interactivity, visualization, collaboration, captivation, and technology sophistication, in order to motivate learners, and to promote effective learning. Gunawardena and Zittle (1995) have identified several themes that are consistent with those identified by Bonk and Zhang (2006) which seem to permeate successful online teaching and learning; these are cognitive strategies, learner-centeredness, interactivity, collaborative learning and social presence.
Mazza and Dimitrova (2003) explain that, “Visualization is a powerful tool in three major tasks: exploration (searching for relationships, trends, and interesting phenomena)”; confirmation (validating or refuting hypotheses); and presentation (conveying information to others).” Mazza and Dimitrova (2003) further state that suitable pictorial representations of data from distance classes helps instructors to form mental models of individual students, as well as mental models of groups of students.” By using these models, instructors can provide instruction that is more effective. GISMO, a visualization tool for Moodle, obtains tracking data, transforms the data into a form convenient for processing, and then generates graphical representations that UWIOC instructors and course/ programme developers can explore and manipulate to examine social, cognitive, and behavioral aspects of their distance students. Managing complex multi-dimensional data with the appropriate visualization techniques allows people to be able to form mental models of data that would ordinarily be difficult to understand.
“Moodle with PHP & SQL- Let’s Make the Most of Moodle” also includes a Student Life-cycle Management application (OpenSIS), which is a centralized relational database that can be used to create complex reports on students’ attendance, grades and discipline. This standard reporting tool is intended to provide UWIOC course providers and instructors with all of the important students-data that they need, and offers valuable information specific to UWIOC’s instructors’ roles. Use your existing in-house tools and skills to create any report you need.
According to a case study by McLean (2007), California State University was able to accelerate time to graduation by examining the student lifecycle. He states, “Student lifecycle management (SLM) software significantly reduces time spent on gathering information because it consolidates and automates information systems so that faculty, staff, and advisors can obtain student information right away, allowing staff to focus on education-related responsibilities.” He also added that careful evaluation and implementation of SLM technology enables institutions to improve student relationship management, and to establish their institution as a partner in the student experience and a source for high-quality education.
Hackman and Walker's (1990) study provides evidence that 'teacher immediacy' contributes to student satisfaction and learning in an interactive television class. Meanwhile, Capdeferro and Romero’s (2012) poll a group of online learners participating in the Master of ICT and Education found that participants’ perception that collaboration within the online environment was the most important source of frustration among students, who perceived online collaborative learning experiences as being asymmetrical. Zhang, Dongsong, et al. (2004) believed that in an e-learning environment that emphasizes learner-centered activity and system interactivity, remote learners can outperform traditional classroom students.
The use of synchronous video chat in online interaction can increase the instances and quality of interactions, fosters collaboration among students and with tutors, and allows for richer communication and peer feedback. Chen, C. M., & Sun, Y. C. (2012) found that video-based material and dynamic multimedia materials that contain video and animation are appropriate for visualizers, and generate positive emotion and learning performance for verbalizers. As such Babelium, a Moodle plugin that allows students to record their voices and/or their faces (using their microphones and webcams) and get evaluations from the grades assessment module by teachers has been included in the “Moodle with PHP & SQL- Let’s Make the Most of Moodle” innovation. By means of the Babelium server, users will be able to assess each other in a collaborative way, synchronously.
Webcasting is defined as the sending of digital information via the internet for reception, viewing and listening by the public, which may involve interaction between the sender and the recipients. According to Armstrong (2000), webcasting and video-conferencing technology is a sustaining product for higher education because it allows lecturers to perform many of their existing functions more efficiently and effectively since it allows opportunities for a student to study the material in a non-linear fashion, and in the order that they find to be most comfortable. Webcasting allows students to repeat those lessons that they did not understand, or to learn lessons that they missed entirely. A 2006 study conducted by Yunus, Kasa, Asmuni, Abu Samah, Napis, Yusoff, Khanafie and Wahab was conducted to determine the effectiveness of the implementation of webcasting technology in teaching in higher education identified lecture through Video on Demand (VOD) technology as having a positive impact towards students’ learning when compared live recording, pre-recorded and face-to-face modalities. They suggest that this could be due to the interactive features of VOD technology that allows students to control the lecture video sequences and suit the sequence to their needs. Additional benefits of VOD that can be harnessed include full video functionality for each user, unrestricted access to content, interactivity of the information delivery system and full online management interface.
Just as the Berkeley Internet Broadcasting System (BIBS) offers live webcasts and on-demand replay of class lectures using streaming media (i.e., audio, video, and presentation material) on the Internet (Rowe, Harley, Pletcher, & Lawrence, 2001), so too will UWIOC be able to provide its students with the benefits of webcasting through the use of a Moodle add-on called Panopto Focus. Panopto features Lectures, live streaming, video import, editing, search, content management, integration and mobile connectivity. These features are similar to the ones being offered by BIBS, and can potentially have similar benefits and usage. According to a 2001 study conducted on BIBS it was revealed that the system was widely used and deem indispensible by the graduate and undergraduate students of University of California, Berkeley. During the Fall 2000 semester, 14 classes were webcast. The study showed that during the semester, with a total enrollment of over 4,000 students, lectures were played over 15,000 times per month during that semester only. The reasons given were congruent with those identified by Yunus et al (2006). Panopto Focus can do the same for the students of UWIOC.
In addition to the aforementioned plug-in and add-ons, “Moodle with PHP & SQL- Let’s Make the Most of Moodle” make smaller adjustment to the settings and functionality with Moodle itself. These changes will include adjusting setting to allow individuals to group leaders to have certain monitoring and other rights at UWI Open Campus. Shifting students’ roles may to offer them greater control over, and more responsibility for their own learning and can positively affect student retention (Allen & Seaman, 2005; Dykman & Davis, 2008; Stanford-Brown, 2008), as cited in Heyman, (2010).
Similarly, the Student Administration Integration Pack (SAIP) will be included in the “Moodle with PHP & SQL- Let’s Make the Most of Moodle” to help ease integration and management processes for UWIOC which is currently employing a variety of administrative and educational systems. SAIP and Moodle will provide continuous synchronization of course, student, and enrollment information between the Oracle Student Information System and Moodle’s systems. SAIP will perform the extremely valuable function of managing constant drop/adds during course enrollment periods each semester by preventing UWIOC from having to manually export and import the data.
Each aspect of the “Moodle with PHP & SQL- Let’s Make the Most of Moodle” has been carefully selected in keeping with Universal Instructional Design (UID) principles, to not only bring people with the UWIOC learning space closer together, but to promote deeper reflection and re-examination of the administrators existing beliefs of how learning takes place. Social constructivism is an integral part of any modern educational context, online or otherwise, since it extends learning into its social dimension. With “Moodle with PHP & SQL- Let’s Make the Most of Moodle” groups will be able to construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared video, frozen and audio artifacts that have shared meanings, immersing learners within a UWIOC culture is more palpable on many levels. This innovation fosters a healthy amount of connected behavior within a learning community will invariably become a very powerful stimulant for learning. It is this connectedness that will captivate UWIOC’s students, and that will engender the commitment necessary for them to complete the programmes that they begin.
University of the West Indies Open Campus current online modality has been referred to as static, isolating, faceless, impersonal and lacking in connectivity. Therefore, in attempting to augment the current system it is important to consider the many factors that will affect the implemention of the new system. Although, we are not implementing a new system Woodall (2011) points out that the research indicates that implementing online education requires a deep understanding of the institutional context, clear vision, effective leadership, understanding attitudes towards online education and the provision of effective student support mechanisms” (p. ii). Findings of studies conducted by Marshall, Kinuthia & Richards (2012), Thurab-Nkhosi (2009) and Cain & Phillip (2013) indicate the need for UWIOC to improve of the quantity and quality of interactions in the delivery of their programs, and as such, this mockup of add-ons that can be used with Moodle attempts to do so by providing a sampling of add-ons that can improved course management, interactivity of programs and tools that can help reduce attrition in the following paragraphs.
Proposed solution: GISMO
Tiwari and Tiwary(2010) believed that “an important part of any learning methodology is to have assessment to measure the learning effectiveness” (p. 140). GISMO is one such tool that can be easily and inexpensively added on to Moodle to facilitate the effective of learning in UWI Open Campus space by monitoring and providing real-time and focused feedback to learners.
Pracht (1986) described GISMO as “a visual problem-structuring and knowledge-organization technique applicable to complex unstructured decision-making situations is presented” (p. 265). In fact, Mazza and Botturi(2007) described it as a “novel, open source, graphic student-tracking tool integrated into Moodle.” It “provides visualizations of behavioral, cognitive and social data from the course, allowing constant monitoring of students' activities, engagement and learning outcomes” (p. 251). By using this tool the facilitator can do the following:
1.Specifying the problem elements;
2. Specifying the relationship between the elements;
3. Specifying the strengths and time delays for these relationships;
4. Constructing a visual representation of the problem called a digraph;
5. Refining and working directly with the digraph
Like UWI Open Campus administrators, so too are learners desiring to make quick decisions about their academic progress or future pursuit. To accomplish this, it is important to find a tool that is flexible, low cost and user friendly and can integrated with Moodle. Therefore, the tool recommended is OpenSIS. “OpenSIS is a free student information system that rivals costly commercial alternatives in looks, functionality, ease of use and administration” (http://opensis.com).OpenSIS has eleven primary functional areas, mainly learners demographic, grade book, report/report design, report card, health record, attendance, parent portal, user customization and security.
Lee, Srinivasan, Traila, Lewis and Lopez (2012) considered “support for student learning is a key element in optimizing student learning experiences in any learning environment” (p. 158). Specifically, learners perception of instructional, peer, and technical support was significantly related to their overall satisfaction of the online course, however, facilitators’ “should communicate what types of support are available to students and provide an easy way of accessing the support” (p. 158). Therefore, by adopting OpenSIS as a student’s support system, learners can assess student support services directly from Moodle which will eliminate some of the challenges posed by the existing setup which require learners to access services through multiple locations.
Learners come to the learning environment with certain built-in characteristics that make and one these happen to be the need for face-to-face interaction. As well, persons have been heavily socialized to engage face-to-face in real-time so it is not uncommon for learners to lose interest in the online space when learning is static and synchronous. Because of this, it is recommended that UWI Open Campus use an add-on called Babelium which is an add-on given the capacity of this tool to foster real-time collaboration, language learning and demonstrations. The tool is free and has a history of being fully integrated with Moodle.
Babelium will improve learners experience by doing the following:
1. Increasing the instances of and quality of human interaction;
2. Deepening levels of communication by making it easier for students to reach out to other participants in their courses and programmes;
3. Personalizing the learning environment;
4. Improving its computer-conferencing format ;
5. Using more intuitive and student friendly software that reduces the amount of technical preparation required;
6. Making the course material is more interesting, interactive and engaging
7. Increasing opportunities for multiple-level feedback.
Santamaría (2010) identified Balelium is “a new e-learning system for foreign language speaking practice based on a collaborative open source environment using innovative technological solutions based on video treatment” (p. 597). Still, this tool can be used for other areas of learning because it give learners time to engage on specific content area that can be best learned by face-to-face interchanges.
One of the great resistors to the adoption of technologicalchange in higher education is the argument that there is not sufﬁcientevidence for such innovation. According to Vaughan and Garrison, 2005, p. 1, in this case, “a comparison of the face-to-face and online discussion forums indicates that:
1) a slightly higher percentage of triggering events occurred in the face-to-face discussions;
2) exploration was the dominant phase in both environments;
3) a noticeably greater percentage of comments were coded for integration in the online discussions;
4) and the resolution/application phase was almost non-existent in both forms of discussion”
Therefore, Balelium can provide avenues for learners to have a richer learning experience, more interactive learning experience. These experiences can be conveyed to other learners who might be interested in attending UWI Open Campus.
Patterson (2009) recognized that “with the increased sophistication of recording software applications, lecturecapture applications have been developed. Lecture capture technologies allow educators to easily and seamlessly record all the activities that occur during a lecture” (p. 746). Panopto is one such tool use by facilitators to do the following:
1. Record lectures: screencasts, events, and meetings from any laptop;
2. Live Streaming: Broadcast live online to hundreds or thousands of viewers around the world;
3. Import: Upload your videos and manage them from a secure central repository;
4. Viewing: View live webcasts and on-demand video in high definition from any device;
5. Editing: Trim and remix your videos from anywhere with Panopto’s web-based media editor;
6. Search: Search within your videos to find the specific segment you're looking for;
7. Content Management: Organize and manage a centralized library of hundreds or thousands of videos;
8. Integration: Integrate with your LMS or Active Directory, and customize Panopto with built-in APIs;
9. Mobile: Search your entire library, view videos, and create new recordings, all from your iPhone or iPad.
UWI Open Campus is a Regional University meeting the educational needs of a very diverse student body. Many of the learners face time constraints, given the competing familial, work and other commitments, and are only able to access earlier lecture later when time permit. This by it very design can be a major motivational factor and can allay attrition and other challenges learners face because of access to lectures (Hunte, 2010). Furthermore, Patterson (2009) p. 746-747 contend that, “overcoming potential barriers created by time and location it is argued this increased accessibility provides learners with:
a) thetime to reflect on their learning;
b) the ability to more closely examine the detailed steps of the learning event and;
c) on-demand access to appropriate digital materials to review for formal and informal assessment tasks
d) the ability for students to take notes while watching the recordings;
e) the ability for students to skip through the recording to key parts, either by searching through their;
f) notes to find key content areas, or by clicking through the slides;
g) files could be easily added to Moodle, the LMS used by this institution.
Limitations of the Project
Boulet, Caplain and Tremblay (2012) said that the gaining of academic support for Moodle’s more comprehensive systems need to be developed. “Based on the different needs and practices of various departments and programs, a single sign-on Moodle Federated Digital Learning Environment has been put into place to give the professors and the learners a set of tools to produce, distribute, share, manage, discuss and comment learning activities and contents” (p. 894). Given this, a mockup of the integrate solution for UWI Open Campus is presented in below.
Bandwidth management is a generic term that describes the various techniques, technologies, tools and policies employed by an organisation to enable the most efficient use of its bandwidth resources. According to Kassim, et al (2012) bandwidth management is a process of allocating bandwidth resources to critical applications on a network. Bandwidth management aims to improve performance of an Internet connection by removing unnecessary traffic. The goal of managing network capacity is to have the right amount of bandwidth in the right place at the right time for the right set of users and applications (Sharma, Kumar and Thakiu, 2011).Ironically, as revealed in the survey of Open Campus dropouts, the major threat to the completion of this project is schedule conflicts, limited time to devote to collaboration, domestic problems, difficulty working on group assignments, and inadequate, infrequent and insufficient one-to-one interaction with instructors, and between group members. These are challenges that face many other groups and, in some instances, are just a natural part of group dynamics or poorly designed teaching and learning online leaning space.
These obstacles can be controlled, or altogether eliminated, by applying some basic principles and tenets of project management. Scheduling of meetings well in advance, delineation of roles and responsibilities, maintaining proper planning and preparation for these meetings and constant communication, can do much to ensure that the project is successful, meets all its objectives and is delivered on time.
Barring the people issues that are part of group dynamics and are to be managed, the biggest of the challenge really capturing the depth of the issues that help or hinder learners’ learning experiences given the vastness of these.
Towards the issue of infrastructure, in 2010 the World Bank proposed an ICT Infrastructure Development Programme for the Caribbean forum of African Caribbean and specific states (CARIFORUM).
At present, the submarine cabling, along with other infrastructure resource-intensive applications that demand dedicated physical hardware, that is required to sustain the levels of bandwidth necessary to support this innovation do not exist. Hopefully, this may change in the near future since the World Bank, in conjunction with International Development Agency (IDA) are working and prepared to fund an ICT improvement programme for the Caribbean region.
The Caribbean Communications Infrastructure Programme (CARCIP) is geared towards bridging the remaining gaps in regional broadband communications infrastructure in the Caribbean Region by providing connectivity support for government offices, health centres, schools, national and regional emergency communications networks and, of course, universities like UWIOC. This project is a step in a positive direction and significant hope for the future of connectivity and bandwidth, the two major constraints to the innovation. I believe that this ICT led innovation that has the potential to transform the way UWIOC does its business, and has the potential to open a gateway to the world.
Cost concerns were the most discussed and presented issues raised by the audience that the “Moodle with PHP & SQL- Let’s Make the Most of Moodle” prototype was piloted to. It was suggested that the innovation would be adding a lot to Moodle, and given the context in which UWIOC operates, how feasible was it to implement? However, Cre8tive Kaw merely is suggesting a low cost, but highly accessible solution to the multimedia problem with UWIOC’s learning environment, and a very significant one at that. Though the question focused on Moodle, the real issue is whether the infrastructure in the Caribbean can support such an innovation. Unfortunately, the answer at present is in the negative. Nonetheless, UWIOC must continue to search for ways to improve its product and its delivery of that product.
Some perceived the innovation as a viable one, noting that Moodle itself is free. Despite this, realistic and foreseen concerns about the cost of the innovation itself were raised. Questions about its flexibility, and issues about costs being transferred to students were envisioned during the design and development phases of the and the group to which the prototype was presented asked these. In response, Cre8ive Kaw wishes to distinguish between the cost of the innovation and the cost of implementation.
Cost of implementation seemed to be a major concern that was continually raised. Members of the audience wanted to know how this innovation would affect the end users, and rightfully so. Cre8ive Kaw’s response to this issue is that cost must be weighed against the quality of the programme/ product the UWIOC offers. The UWIOC, like many other international universities that offer online degree programmes, is facing serious competition from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). In the face of this type of disruptive technology, now more than ever, UWIOC must search for innovative ways to create a strategic advantage given its current resource constraints. Cre8ive Kaw believes a major part of this business strategy lies in the development of a Bandwidth Management Strategy that utilizes policy, monitoring etc. to manage its available bandwidth. This can be accomplished by limiting access to users within a scheduling framework, while allowing exclusive privileges to select students as necessary and/ or feasible. In this way, the “Moodle with PHP & SQL- Let’s Make the Most of Moodle” innovation is merely an effort to bring UWIOC abreast with other open universities, and can redound to the institution’s strategic advantage.
In the short term, UWIOC must look at bandwidth management in an effort to improve client satisfaction of the end-users by seeking out ways to maximize or make efficient use of their existing bandwidth. Chitanana (2012) state that a cost-effective solution exists for all universities that can be deployed regardless of the campus' existing network configuration or installed devices. Cre8ive Kaw’s bandwidth management strategy involved scheduling specific groups of student to enjoy bandwidth demanding applications at specific times is in fact a potentially viable interim solution. Chitanana (2012) refers to the act of limiting access to certain users as one component of bandwidth management. At this point, further investigation must be conducted to assess the efficacy of UWIOC’s bandwidth management strategy, if indeed one exists. Nonetheless, bandwidth scheduling is a viable option for UWIOC and is a point of interest for further investigation and research that may yield tangible benefits to UWIOC’s students and faculty.
The fact of the matter is that the Caribbean is in dire need of upgrading its ICT infrastructure. This is not specific of UWIOC, but is instead a contextual and an environment constraint swear which UWIOC has no control .Unfortunately, the cost of such an upgrade is not one that any single institution or organization in the Caribbean cans bear. Thus, the cost of the innovation is very low, but the cost of implementation is very high
To use an analogy, imagine that an engineer visits a bridge that is on the verge of collapse, and is asked to suggest a way of repairing it before imminent collapses occurs. The engineer will make recommendation in accordance with his or her expertise; however, the contracting entity may not have sufficient physical or financial resources, equipment or know how to implement the engineer’s recommendations. This in no way detracts from the soundness, veracity or usefulness of the proposal solution. In the same vein, Cre8ive Kaw deems its innovation to be an instructional technology initiative that has the potential to resolve or ameliorate some of UWIOC’s deficiencies, despite the environmental challenges that the absence or scarcity of supportive infrastructure and limited bandwidth present.
Globalization has brought many things with it, many of which are ill-defined. One certainty is that it has connected people and systems in unconventional ways. A major part of that includes learners. People want to access and use the available tools to manage their lives, to help them succeed at the everyday activities that they have to do. Technological tools are doing just that, especially in the field of higher education. Teaching and learning is not different as learners want to see their normal teaching and learning activities improve with the aid of technology. As highlighted, in many instances, that is not happening. UWIOC's challenges are not unique since many other higher education institutions are grappling with similar issues.
UWIOC's challenges are exacerbated as a result of the actual or perceived disconnect between what learners want to have as good learning experience, and what UWIOC is presently offering. It is imperative that the university intensify its attentiveness to the concerns being expressed by its learners, and moreover that it takes the appropriate action that is necessary to remediate. One main concern is that learners currently perceive that they don’t have a voice in the teaching and learning decision-making, and this must change moving forward. It is one practical way to improve the responsiveness of the institution to the issues that are currently causing UWIOC students to have a less than positive teaching and learning experience in the online space.
Additionally, because of the complexities of the problems facing UWIOC and the short shelf life of technology solutions, UWIOC urgently needs to adopt a different philosophical approach to the design of its programs. One where they see learners as partners, and not as passive vessels that information must be poured into. Instead, learners must be seen and treated as important catalyst who have the power to move the university forward to a competitive position in this globalize higher education environment. Anything short of this kind of posture will continue to perpetuate attrition by leaving learners dissatisfied. Such sentiments that they are likely to be conveyed to others and will only hurt the image of the university, not to mention the people who depend on them.
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