An investigation of whether the introduction of an e-mastery system for quantity surveying students at the Durban Institute of Technology improves key competencies.
Students' poor performance in the quantity surveying course at the Durban Institute of Technology appeared to be due to the lack of basic key competence in certain key areas such as mathematics and arithmetic. The students' weaknesses in key competencies were validated in the pre-tests with both the 2003 and 2004 cohorts where few students, only two out of sixteen and one out of eight respectively, displayed mastery in these key areas. Mastery learning was identified as a methodology to use for helping students because it benefited slow and fast learners alike. This study investigates the use of an e-mastery learning system to help students improve their competence in some of the key areas identified. An experiment was conducted, using the 2003 fourth-year quantity surveying students as a control group and the 2004 fourth-year quantity surveying students as the experimental group. The control group took a pre-test, were subjected to a face-to-face intervention and then they took a post-test. The experimental group took the same pre-test, were exposed to a mastery learning system, which was then followed by the same post-test. The results of this experiment showed that the mastery learning intervention helped the students, but not to the extent expected by the author. The experiment indicated that the e-based system was only marginally more helpful than the face-to-face intervention which the control group received. This quantitative aspect of the experiment was hampered by small sample sizes and was further constrained by difficulties in accessing the e-mastery system. Following this outcome, a qualitative study was undertaken, in the form of semi-structured interviews, to ascertain why the e-based system was not as successful as expected. Although the quantitative analysis indicated that the e-based system was more helpful, the interviews revealed the underlying problems were related to access to the e-based system and students' limited computer literacy skills. The conclusion drawn from these findings is that an e-based mastery learning system would help students improve their key competencies provided the computer literacy problems and access problems were solved, the mastery learning system was more comprehensively developed, and that the students were motivated enough to devote themselves to using the system on a regular basis.