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Blekinge Institute of Technology, School of Management.
2007 (English)Conference paper (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Previous research suggest that there is a correlation between amount of student interaction and the distance-learners’ educational experience, e.g. Andrusyszn et al, (1999), and Wright et al, (2000). To find the most effective forms of student interaction is a major challenge in distance education in part because of the correlation between interactivity and drop-out rates. At BTH so called blended learning has been chosen for distance education, whereby students come for occasional physical meetings. This study shows that case studies are a preferred pedagogical form among students also in blended learning. The study also shows that students find interaction with fellow students almost as important as that with the teacher. It also suggests that there may not be any major differences between preferred forms of interactivity, between chats, forums and videoconferences. Previous research has shown that Forums seem to have another advantage, that students in distributed and Webbased Distance learning courses would report feeling less threatened to seek help than students in more traditional learning environments (Kitsantas and Chow, 2007). Previous research by Kearsley and Lynch (1996) showed a drop out figure between 20 and 30% in distance learning courses. At BTH this figure has been substantially higher with more than 50%. Part of the reason may be the fact that the program is for free and that it is relatively easy to get into, after the model easy-in, difficult-out. As e-learning programs are constantly being developed and universities have become financially depended upon these programs, the reduction in drop out rates has become an increasingly important issue for institutions of business education.

Abstract [sv]

This study makes a number of conclusions: That students find that case studies is the best form of interactivity for themselves and for the overall quality of the program. That students find their interaction with both teacher and fellow students to be highly important for their learning experience. That students do not make any clear distinction between preferences for different form of internet interactivity. Further more the study supports the idea with the blended programs because of their contribution to a higher degree of interactivity. In dealing with these issues we have presented two models which may be of help: one which shows the difference in Degree of interactivity with Videoconferences and another which concerns pedagogic theory, a Content-Teacher-Student Tripod for Mutual Influence in Distance Education. From the perspective of pedagogic theory we have shown how students, teacher and content may influence what and how knowledge is being transferred. We have also raised a number of pedagogic questions for further research both from a cognitivist as well as a behaviorist perspective. Despite the wide use and acceptance of internet technologies this study shows that students still find short physical meetings with case study discussions highly valuable for interaction with teacher and fellow students. Video conferences are on average considered slightly more useful than internet forums and just as useful as internet chats. Starting fall 2007 it is the ambition of the MBA programs at BTH to make all distance courses available over videoconferences, with so called video lectures. The number and length or these lectures is still up to the lecturer to decide. For some there will be an equivalent of the same number of hours as in class room lectures. For others it will be a question of a smaller number of lectures or so called mini-lectures. What form and mix is being chosen depends much on questions such as what each teacher is comfortable with and how much IT knowledge and interest he or she possesses overall and in particular when it comes to each system. It has been found that teachers who rely on low interactivity, who do not check their email regularly, or who are not available online, e.g. over Skype, have less satisfied students and perform less satisfactory. Consequently they have been found to be less useful for distance education, even though they may be excellent researchers and class room teachers. In other words, availability is a prerequisite for interactivity in distance education and would be defined as a Key Success Factor. Before doing this empirical study the author had an understanding from feedback that students valuate video conferences more than any other form of interaction in distance education. As students only had one course with videoconferences during the entire program, and these lectures were not compulsory or started on by students, the basis for drawing conclusions on video conferences was too weak. Future tests should focus more on this particular issue. This study shows that it is not only a question of finding the right mix of interactivity between different media, but of finding the right mix of interactivity within each media. This is particularly the case for more elaborated systems, like videoconferences. Today there is also the tendency towards more integrated systems, where a number of functions are made available in the same place. The difference in mix within each media may be considered more of a pedagogical issue and decided by the individual teacher based on his or her pedagogic conviction, but the mix of media is often set by the university administration. Case studies do not have to be removed from the MBA education simply because the program is offered on distance. More, physical meetings are not required for the use of case studies even though this was the situation tested here. Case studies can be used in internet activity, e.g. as a part of video lectures, preferably then with a higher degree of interactivity on the part of the students, as limited or unlimited two-ways communication. One reason for the positive feedback on case studies is that method by itself opens up for a great deal of interactivity, compared to e.g. regular class room lectures (Solberg Søilen and Huber, 2006, pp. 27-31). What we can recommend in general from our findings is to allow for and prepare for the high complexity and intensity of interaction which the student is seeking in distance education and which seems to prepare for the success of the MBA programs, also by reducing drop out rates.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bergen, Norway, 2007.
Keyword [en]
distance education, MBA program, interaction, drop-out rate
National Category
Business Administration Pedagogy
URN: urn:nbn:se:bth-6230Local ID: diva2:833677
NFF Conference 2007
Available from: 2015-06-25 Created: 2007-08-07 Last updated: 2015-06-30Bibliographically approved

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