How do students learn from activities in self-instructional materials for distance education courses?

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How do students learn from activities in self-instructional materials for distance education courses?

 

Author: Lo, Wai-wai Anna
Title: How do students learn from activities in self-instructional materials for distance education courses?
Degree: M.Ed.
Year: 2002
Subject: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Open University of Hong Kong
Distance education -- China -- Hong Kong -- Case studies
Programmed instruction -- China -- Hong Kong -- Case studies
Department: School of Professional Education and Executive Development
Pages: v, 73, [7] leaves ; 30 cm
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b1661054
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/4717
Abstract: In distance education, activities have been a distinctive feature of self-instructional materials. They are used as a tool to enhance learner-content interaction, and to encourage learners to use the materials actively. Experts in this field have suggested a strong rationale for the incorporation of activities and well-developed concepts for the design of activities. How students actually use the activities is, however, another story. A limited amount of research evidence has shown that many students tend to by-pass or degrade such learning activities. The activities seemed to be unsuccessful in inducing students to engage in much more thinking. It was suggested that the unsatisfactory results were due to flaws in those activities. Then, what are good activities that really help students learn? This question is at the heart of all course designers who are devoted to design activities for students. In this study, I have investigated students' responses to different kinds of activities in a foundation level and a postgraduate level course, so as to find out which ones are more effective in enhancing student learning. The interpretive paradigm and the method of naturalistic inquiry have been adopted, and the data was gathered through individual interviews. Two courses of very different nature and level were deliberately chosen to get a clearer picture of the factors affecting students' responses. A total of 12 students were interviewed and their responses to activities examined. In general they all held positive attitudes towards the incorporation of activities, and quite a majority have attempted and found them useful to learning. This result was more encouraging than in most previous research. However, this does not imply that all activities would be attempted; students' responses depend on a range of factors including the format, the content, the instruction as well as the feedback mechanism of the activities. They revealed that the most useful ones are those related to their jobs or real cases. "Authenticity" and relevance to assessment are both important factors. As for the format of activities, students from NU101C (foundation level) preferred closed-ended questions whereas those from B842C (postgraduate level) preferred open-ended questions. In view of the results, some recommendations are made in this report to course designers on designing activities which students find beneficial to their learning. Certain general principles such as catering more for adult learners, fine-tuning design strategies according to subject content and integrating activities with other course components have been suggested. In addition, practical skills in devising instruction and feedback are also discussed here. All these provide useful guidance for future design of learning activities and hence enable improvements to be made.

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