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Technology Enhanced Learning for Higher Education in Brazil

By José Dutra de Oliveira Neto, Gilvania de Sousa Gomes / August 2016

TYPE: HIGHER EDUCATION, INTERNATIONAL ONLINE EDUCATION
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Enhancing student engagement in learning is a critical task for higher education institutions, and the use of active methodologies has proven to be an excellent alternative available to drive students to reach higher levels of learning. Active learning awakens students to exercise their role as active and key players to build their own knowledge [1].

The literature makes use of publications on the effectiveness of active methodologies in teaching accounting, for example, the use of teaching cases [2, 3] supported by problem based learning mechanisms (PBL), and the flipped classroom [4].

The literature review also presents clear signs about the positive relation between the use of flipped class and student engagement. Learning is enhanced through a better use of in-class time [5]. The main characteristic of flipped class is to deliver content before in-class activities to use in-class time to better develop student skills. The flipped method proves to be a capable tool for providing higher quality learning through the development of theoretical and practical skills [6].

Although active methodologies like flipped class have proven to increase the quality of learning, the integration of technology resources in flipped classroom instruction has been a challenge for instructors. Too many instructors lack clear models of successful technology use in flipped classroom. Part of the reason is the experience using technology, which has accumulated, has not been sufficiently disseminated.

Through the broad familiarity with technological resources used by the digital generation, we realize IT resources can be considered part of the educational process since it is deemed impossible to decouple education and virtual environments. Electronic equipment and interaction programs are more and more present in daily life, and, with students the scenario is no different. Thus, we propose the technologies must be included in school environments for the purpose of, in addition to, demonstrating alignment to cyber reality, motivating students, and engaging learners.

Technological resources, if known and used correctly, can serve as tools for active learning by providing student interaction with the subject matter in dynamically playful, and why not, and fun way. Shy students are enable to actively participate in activities in which they can express their doubts, opinions, and suggestions without an outward personal display in front of their classmates. Additionally, all students have the ability to carry out their studies and activities in the time and place of their choice, asynchronously.

In addition to these benefits, technology also allows provides to different styles of learning. Instructors can make use of audio and video-with and without subtitles-games, quizzes, chats, and more while exploring the virtual learning environment to observe students' posted activities, give feedback, and share the status of the individual's development and the development of the class.

However this scenario can make instructors uneasy, if they are not digital natives Perhaps in their graduate work or early teaching career they did not have contact or access to technological resources, and currently face difficulties in dealing with highly cybernetic students and those who have different electronic devices on which they perform multiple activities.

Moreover, nowadays, the instructor's role has been reconfigured. The one who was once regarded as the holder of information and knowledge, now finds themselves directed to the role of facilitator or mentor. So, in addition to changes in their role in the educational process, instructors are facing a technological ocean-sometimes unknown-which will inevitably have to be explored.

So, how can we use technology to streamline lessons and motivate students to engage in the construction of their knowledge? Our goal here is to report a successful experiment using technology in an active learning methodology.

The Application Environment

In 2015, an experiment was undertaken at a Brazilian public university undergraduate degree program in accounting. The introduction to research methodology course was offered for accounting students, and the subject was taught by the same instructor for two classes totaling 78 students. The composition of the participants was 60 percent male and 40 percent female, with similar ages. The flipped classroom approach was used in this course for four lessons using the following tools to support bibliometric activity within the course: Web of Science (WOS), Excel, Mendeley, and Histcite (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. The Flipped 2.0 classroom approach for each lesson.
[click to enlarge]

Before Class

Before each class students had to access a learning management system (LMS) to do their assignment at home. The LMS provided some resources like PDF files and videos to support homework activity. Additional resources like Google and peer interaction are encouraged to complete the assignment. The assignment had to be accomplished and submitted by Sunday before class.

If the students had an a issue relating to this assignment, such as a misconception or an issue relating to the use of the software, they would post a question via Sli.do, which is a free application available for smartphones and desktop to enable communication between students and instructor. Before posting a question in the existing question forum, the student could scroll and see all the questions available.

Although there are many reasonss why students might not want to ask questions regarding the assignment, we should provide a chance for them to ask. Based on the questions posed by student, it helps the instructor to tailor the next class to their level, interest, and needs [7]. Threfore we must require all students submit questions in order not to get a distorted view of classroom communication.

Once questions from all of the students were available in the Sli.do system, students were required to vote for the top questions using the same system. The software provides real time ranking of the five most popular questions, as well as the number of votes each item received (see Figure 2). The software, which works as a social network, allowed each student to post and view the questions throughout the class and enables them to vote for which issue they considered to be the most important.

Responses to student questions are likely to be more understandable and memorable for them than those that the teacher chooses with no prompting from the student [7].


Figure 2. A screenshot of Sli.do, viewed in real time by students and instructor using desktop or smartphone
[click to enlarge]

During Class

At the beginning of class, the instructor delivered a test based on the top five questions from Sli.do. The test was created using the free software EXITix, which has a visual interface that helps to understand the engagement of students during the in-class activity. The instructor was able to display individual results anonymously in real time via the classroom projector (see Figure 3).


Figure 3. The EXITtix screen as designed by the students in class
[click to enlarge]


Figure 4. The EXITtix screen displayed on the instructor's computer.
[click to enlarge]

The test results enable customized activities to be performed during the class, primarily to support challenge students may have with the homework. That is, the class activity was focused on the students' questions, and the instructor's role became that of a facilitator in the learning process. During the in-class activity, the students could share their knowledge about homework activity, without the instructors' support. The idea was to provide a collaborative environment where learners engaged in a common task.

After the collaborative activity, the same test was administered a second time, without content changes. Only the order of questions and answers were changed. The students had superior results on the second test, indicating the collaborative activities in the classroom focusing on questions favored student's learning in all lessons where Flipped class 2.0 was employed (see Table 1). The number of students with better grades in the second test, when compared with the first test was as follows: 52 percent (WOS), 78 percent (EXCEL), 70 percent (MENDELEY), and 70 percent (HISTCITE). Some students did not attend all lessons.


Table 1. Pre and Post test results.
[click to enlarge]

The final activity of the class was a mini lecture where the instructor answered all questions posted in the question forum of Sli.do. All the answers were also available in the LMS after the class.

After Class

The students had another chance to submit a revised version of the homework assignment and improve their first grade. The students answered a questionnaire about their perception of the effectiveness of flipped classroom model combined with technology.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Active learning methodology using technology may enhance learning in higher education. The Flipped class 2.0 approach improved teaching effectiveness and efficiency of our course. For all lessons, there was a clear improvement in the learning outcomes.

The use of Sli.do and EXITtix made it possible for the instructor to increase communication with students. Also, through the monitoring of personal and virtual interactions among the students, the instructor could prepare the class to remedy any difficulties, making the class entirely focused on the student's demand.

For the students, the use of Sli.do and EXITtix produced greater engagement. The visual instrument, showing individual results, encouraged students to participate more collaboratively in classroom activities to improve their own learning, which could lead to higher grades. Besides this, the student survey revealed they found the use of both technologies in the classroom to be beneficial.

Collaborative activities and questioning enhanced the quality of the flipped class approach. Questioning is essential to prepare students to become self-regulated learners. They learn better when they clarify their doubts. They also learn from feedback to their queries given by the instructors or classmates during the collaborative activities [8].

There are numerous possibilities for integrating technologies in the teaching-learning processes, here we have presented two alternatives. This practice should be encouraged more by academic institutions. Instructors, who remain conservative, must be open to seeking out and implement alternative mechanisms of transmission and assimilation of knowledge for the new generation of students. Training should be provided to overcome the lack of technical skills to utilize the technology.

References

[1] Al-Zahrani, A. M. From passive to active: The impact of the flipped classroom through social learning platforms on higher education students' creative thinking. British Journal of Educational Technology 46, 6 (2015). http://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12353

[2] Weil, S., and Frampton, C. Cultural and other influences on student perceptions of the use of case studies and study groups in management accounting. Commerce Division Discussion Paper No. 62. Lincoln University. 1999.

[3] Weil, S., Oyelere, P., Yeoh, J., and Firer, C. A study of students' perceptions of the usefulness of case studies for the development of finance and accounting-related skills and knowledge. Accounting Education 10, 2 (2001), 123-146. http://doi.org/10.1080/0963928011008164

[4] Alrowais, A. S. The impact of flipped learning on achievement and attitudes in higher education. International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education 4,1 (2014), 1914-1921.

[5] Wong, K., and Chu, D. Is the flipped classroom model effective in the perspectives of students' perceptions and benefits? In 7th International Conference on Hybrid Learning. Theory and Practice. ICHL 2014, 93-104. (2014). http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-08961-4_10

[6] Blair, E., Maharaj, C., and Primus, S. Performance and perception in the flipped classroom. Education and Information Technologies. 2015. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-015-9393-5

[7] Case, A. Students who are reluctant to ask questions. UsingEnglish.com. 2012

[8] Wong, K. Y., and Quek, K. S. Teaching Students to Ask Questions. SingTeach. 2009.

About the Authors

José Dutra de Oliveira Neto, also known as "Dutra," is an associate professor at the University of São Paulo (USP), Brazil. Dutra is a certified accounting technician for an online program and holds a B.S. in engineering. That experience led to his interest in learning technology and open education resources. He is a successful leader of OER projects in nine countries from the Global South funded by IDRC. When not in school, he spend his time outdoors, beekeeping, and running. Dutra lives in Ribeir�o Preto, Brazil with wife and two kids.

Gilvania de Sousa Gomes is an assistant professor at the Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU) and doctoral student in accounting at the University of São Paulo (USP). I graduated in accounting. She really enjoys learning and teaching, which attracted her to studies in education. She enjoys manual activities such as crafting with rustic materials and gardening. She lives in Uberlândia and studies in Ribeir�o Preto, Brazil.

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