THE RIDGE News
A NUSSU Publication
eLearning: A concept all too familiar to students. With our lectures webcast, tutorials submitted online and discussions taking place on forums or chatrooms, there is no need for us to move an inch from our comfortable perches at home.
It is extremely convenient for us, but have you ever wondered what went on in the background? How do your lecturers cope with the demands of an eLearning week?
THE RIDGE takes you back to an eLearning week conducted in Semester 1, AY2009/2010.
During the eLearning Week, Dr David Lehman invited his MNO1001 students back to watch a movie during lecture hours.
Meanwhile, Dr Liew Soo Chin had his GEK2503 students log on to an IVLE chatroom for an interactive lecture session.
Other lecturers uploaded their lectures onto Breeze; some conducted webcasted lectures; and yet others uploaded their slides onto IVLE.
The vast variety of options available to lecturers for conducting e-lectures could have been daunting for some who were unaccustomed to doing so.
Fortunately, the Centre for Instructional Technology (CIT) provided suggestions and demonstrations for conducting e-lectures. CIT and the Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL) also conducted Breeze workshops for lecturers.
Lecturers also got help from colleagues who were more familiar with the software they intended to use.
All these went some way in ensuring that the system appeared user-friendly rather than mystifying, with the CIT reporting that they received fewer than 40 support requests.
The experience, however, was different from what they had expected, according to some lecturers.
Dr Pow Choon Piew from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ (FASS) Geography department conducted his lectures through Breeze with the help of a colleague.
“The recording part was more time-consuming than I thought it would be. There is a tendency to want to get it right with no glitches and pauses when recording the e-lecture,” he said.
“That requires a lot of re-recording; as much as 8-10 times per slide for one colleague I know.”
Also, a lot of preparatory work was still needed for e-lectures.
Lecturers had to get the necessary equipment, like PC microphones and audio recorders, on top of signing up for Breeze or Camtasia Relay accounts, depending on the mode of presentation they had chosen.
This was followed by the recording and uploading, both of which took time, especially for those unfamiliar with the software.
In spite of the time taken for preparation, it is uncertain how effective e-lectures are, with lecturers acknowledging that students tend to get distracted by the internet when watching an online lecture.
It may then come as no surprise that lecturers still prefer “live” lectures, as shared by Dr Pow and Dr Carl Grundy-Warr, also from FASS, who gave webcasted lectures for his two modules.
“I prefer “live” audiences because they help to keep me animated, focused and allow for some interesting anecdotes to be made to keep people interested in what you are saying.”
“Watching students looking bewildered or falling asleep in lectures has its rewards,” said Dr Grundy-Warr.
Given the value lecturers place on interaction during “live” lectures, one would not expect them to be ardent supporters of eLearning Week.
Dr Grundy-Warr acknowledged that webcasts were a very useful supplement to “live” lectures; however, he felt that eLearning should occur “only in the case of real emergency situations.”
Dr Pow was more generous.
“We should have at most 2 e-lectures per semester,” he said.