Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The internet is really really great

The final article that I found of particular interest, enough to write about, was Hsin-Liang Chen’s Use of multi-modal media and tools in an online information literacy course: College students' attitudes and perceptions, which discusses “[i]ntegration of multi-modal media and tools in an online technology and information literacy class.” According to Chen, the quality of the media and tools, the amount of technical problems, and the technical savvy of the class participants all affect the satisfaction of the participants with the class. Basically, “[t]he results of this study suggest that online courses should provide a rich array of online media and communication tools to strengthen course interactions and student engagement. Additionally, this array of media and tools can expose students to the benefits and challenges of dealing with information and information technology in a networked world.”

Honestly? I could have told you that. I suppose that those conducting these studies haven’t completed (5.5 more months!) a degree entirely online, and base their entire scholarly experience on online interactivity.

Luckily, I’ve really enjoyed my classes and the instructors’ usage of online tools. Every instructor uses different tools in different combinations, and, depending on both the subject matter and the organization of everything, they all seem to work. Of the two, it’s the organization of the material that really affects my opinion of the class. Using Blackboard, instructors have a lot of free reign as to how they post class materials. Much like a library, the better the organization and the more natural the flow of information, the easier it is to find and, then, apply to my studies, the better. Also, distance education is difficult enough without being able to interact face to face with instructors and fellow students. Most classes utilize message boards to provide some semblance of natural class discussion, but even that’s difficult.

The best classes, and I’m not just saying this because the class this paper is for is one of them, have found a way to combat even that, by using presentation chat software (like Adobe Connect) to have real time class meetings. It’s provides a much more comfortable forum for instructors and students to work together and build relationships. Though one of the perks of online education is doing it on your own schedule and required class times go against that, it’s still nice to have a more personal connection with everyone. Now, what I haven’t experienced is Chen’s conclusion that “female participants reported lower levels of computer skill and indicated a tendency to procrastinate in course work.” If I procrastinate, it certainly has nothing to do with my level of computer skill.

Overall, my interest in this material actually confirms, to me, that I’m on the right career path. I still have quite a lot to learn, but I’m excited about learning it!

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