Learning in a constructivist on-line environment.
Most universities are incorporating elements of Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALN) into their traditional classrooms. However, it is not known how well learners who are used to traditional face-to-face learning environments and who do not necessarily prefer ALN adapt when placed in such environments. This study was initiated to investigate the use of ALN with university students from traditional face-to-face classrooms. Second year Computer Science Education students from the Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Education participated in a constructivist on-line learning environment (mixed mode of delivery). The aim of creating this constructivist learning environment using a mixed mode of delivery was to firstly create an environment for students where they can construct knowledge for themselves as well as to provide access to scholarly resources; provide access to data during student's time; promote self directed learning; enable active engagement with course content; facilitate communication with students; and to provide to some extent a way of accommodating different learning styles. A qualitative study was done on the attitudes of students to a constructivist online learning mode as compared to a total face-to-face (traditional) mode of instruction. Part of a second year module, Data Communication, was offered as an on-line module to students. The process began with converting the existing course to a mixed mode delivery form. Conversion required a re-think of the learning activities and objectives within the context of an electronic asynchronous learning environment, as well as the options and resources available, the limitations, a redesign taking note of how to meet the instructional objectives and how to assess learning. The on-line module was developed using WebCT (WebCT Inc.). The module ran for three weeks and thereafter Q-methodology and qualitative data analysis techniques (questionnaires) were used to analyse response of students to the course. The hypotheses tested where: Mastery of course material in the virtual classroom (VC) will be equal or superior to that in the traditional classroom (TC) and VC students will report higher subjective satisfaction with VC than the TC under a number of dimensions, including improved overall quality, better use of time and assessing the experience as being better in some way as when compared to TC. In addition students were able to compare this type of course delivery to total face-to-face course delivery that they took in the first semester. The results showed a positive trend towards the acceptance of a constructivist on-line environment for learning. All students involved in the mixed mode said that it was the mode of delivery that enabled them to benefit from this course, they had more contact with the lecturer and they were motivated to work. Most students felt that the efficiency and quality of education had improved. These results prove that the hypotheses were not refuted and therefore give grounds to my vision of offering existing courses in a constructivist way.