Students' experiences of online support in business management education.
Mtshali, Muntuwenkosi Abraham.
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Learning using online technology has become a popular strategy for addressing diverse learning needs of students in higher education institutions. This strategy is often used to enable students in overcrowded classrooms to gain extended access to their lecturers as not all students are able to consult with their lecturers during normal consultation times. This study was also conducted in the context of a course offering with a large class size where students encountered problems with consultation times that clashed with other lectures they had to attend. The use of online support to complement face-to-face lectures in this course was inspired by the adoption of the Modular-object-oriented and dynamic learning environment (Moodle) learning management system (LMS) by the university as its official LMS. LMS was initially used as an online consultative-forum but was then used as a mechanism to support teaching and learning.by using its various functional properties. Case studies as learning activities were analysed and discussed through online chats and online discussion forums while assignments were accomplished and submitted electronically via Turnitin. Learning resources such as lecture notes and work schedules were also conveyed to students through the LMS. The purpose of this study therefore was to explore students’ experiences of online support in Business Management Education by pursuing the following critical research questions: 1. What are student’s experiences of online-support in Business Management Education? 2. How do these experiences relate to students learning in Business Management Education? 3. Why do these experiences relate to students’ learning in Business Management Education the way they did? Fifteen students in a BME second-year level of study were selected using phenomenographic sampling for purposive variation. This sample was varied according to age, gender, race, background and the regularity with which students engaged with the LMS during the semester. A Mixed-method research was used where a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods of collecting data were deployed. Phenomenography was used as an approach to qualitative research. This approach guided the methods according to which qualitative sampling was conducted, data was collected and also analyzed. A questionnaire was used as a means to confirm the validity of qualitative findings. The research process led to the emergence of the following categories of description as findings in phenomenographic research: repository of resources, support for learning, complexities of epistemological access, conduit for communication, the social effect on learning, and the cognitive effect on learning. The study proposes insights for pedagogy in BME. It goes on to suggest the design of a method of socializing students into online-supported learning, and also to augment the basic computer-literacy course offered to new students at entry level to include elements of online learning. It also proposes a shift from traditional ways of transacting teaching and learning in BME that heavily rely on face-to-face lectures, to include online learning. Importantly, the study deepens insights into the epistemological access challenges that contemporary South African students are likely to encounter. Finally, this study proposes a model for LMS mediated case-based pedagogy for Business Management Education.