Mapping students use of technologies in Problem-Based-Learning Environment

Abstract: This paper aims to investigate how students in higher education use web tools for their group work collaboration in a Problem Based Learning Environment (PBL). The results are based in interviews with students, a questionnaire and students’ reflection in course-related blog posts. Keywords: Problem Based Learning, Problem Oriented Projects, Collaboration, Mobile application, Net generation

Introduction There are number of study about digital native or Net generation who was born after 1982 (Sandars & Morrison, 2007). Some research claims they have different brain structure, different learning practice, and different knowledge perception from the early generation (Prensky, 2001). This is because of the impact of technology in daily life since they were born. This has further fuelled the notions of digital natives or the “Net Generation”, who are argued to be part of a creative, participatory culture where they produce, re-mix and develop advanced learning capabilities through their informal use of technology. Therefore, it has been claimed that we need to fundamentally rethink the entire educational system to accommodate and cater to the needs of the digital natives or the Net Generation (Prensky, 2001). Firstly, because of their advanced skills, but also because they are bored with traditional education and want learning environments which reflect their rich, varied and advanced use of technology. These people have come to study in universities – higher education. In higher education we educate, train, and practice people to be ready for their future profession: industrial oriented or academic field (Moesby, 2002) . Nowadays students use many kind of technology in their daily life include their learning for both formal learning and informal learning. As institutions or educators we should provide support for students to let them use what they are comfortable with and it is challenge to them. Therefore, we should try to understand how students use technology to enhance their learning. The study also tries to understand the existing of digital native or Net generation as claimed. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) has been for different purposes in academic activities namely academic administration, academic information and using by learners to support their own learning activities. There are many commercial and open-source academic softwares available for example e-Learning system, Learning Management System (LMS), e-Portfolio, Social Network, Group ware and many. There are number of research which try to investigate benefit which learners and teachers can gain from using ICT in various kinds of devices PCs, notebook, tablets, PDA, smart phone and other kind of ICT device available on market. Since problem Based Learning has a main character – self-direct learning (Kolmos, K.Fink, & Krogh, 2004), student they own and control their own learning. It is important to understand how learners use technologies to support their own learning especially when universities want to introduce or promote ICT for students. The study is a part of a PhD project called Mobile Learning for Higher Education in Active Learning (Rongbutsri & Ryberg, 2010). It aims to investigate “How can mobile technologies increase the quality of collaboration and group work in problem based

Decision stage is the activity that users must make decision to adopt the innovation or reject. Therefore good collaboration skills and tools are critical to develop a high quality project. Persuasion. and Confirmation as shown on the figure1. 1. the students themselves define the problems to engage with and also how to organize this project work. Students in Aalborg University have to do group projects every semester and the projects are very important for them because the project will be assessed and account for approximately half of their ECTS points. uninterrupted wireless Internet connectivity and discipline specific technological resources in different department. and netbooks).1 The Theory of Diffusion of Innovation A model of stages in the Innovation-Decision Process by Rogers has been used significant number of researches to make understanding of how users perceive and adopt technology. This is where POPP differs from traditional PBL (problem based learning) (Dirckinck-Holmfeld. & Buus. Review of Literature 1.learning environments?” To fulfil the research purpose we plan to understand what are the current practices of using tools for collaboration of students who are in problem based learning environment then we can provide best practice for students to let them experience using collaboration tools on mobile devices (e. smartphones. but work closely with a project supervisor. 2002). The result can help us to understand students current practice on collaboration on their project work in problem based learning environment. Confirmation is state that users still keep using or keep rejecting the technology. Students not only get the respective knowledge but also acquire social skills and critical thinking. 1. In order to develop a tool for students we need to see the readiness. We have conducted a questionnaire testing. 2002) (L. Decision. Before we design and develop the application we need to understand Business processes as a current system and users’ requirements and to understand more about users we need to understand their behaviour of working. . 2002). students’ narratives and focus group interviews.g. It provides framework to form pedagogies which are compatible with self-direct learning. Ryberg. The university has a strong infrastructural support for physical space for group work discussions within each department and libraries. and the current practice of students using ICT to support learning. methodologically and practically. & Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld. Sorensen. Nyvang. and social interaction. Persuasion is state which users make their attitude to the innovation whether like or dislike. 2004). Aalborg University has also experienced on employing technology to support student group by using Lotus Quickplace. Moodle and Mahara (Tolsby. the motivation. Dirckinck-Holmfeld. tablets.1 Problem Based Learning Problem based Learning (PBL) is a social constructivism. which is also referred to as problem oriented project pedagogy (POPP)(Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld. Knowledge is the state that users get to know about an innovation which is collaboration tool for our case. Implementation is the state that user re-invent or customize the innovation to best fit to his/her use. theoretically. In POPP. Aalborg University has employed this PBL model since 1974. The model consists of five stages: Knowledge. Implementation.

8. Methodology To answer the research question we plan to do a set of quantitative and qualitative studies as followed. 7. A Model of Stages in the Innovation-Decision Process (Rogers. The result helps us to modify the questionnaire before launching in the full scale. 9. 2. 3. 2. • Narrative Analysis We have asked students from the first semester to write story about how they use collaboration tools which they had already been introduced at the beginning of the semester. as described in the following section. We are going to launch the survey on 30th May 2011 to collect data from every faculty in Aalborg University. 1995) Base on these 5 stages we made 8 response categories for our questionnaire on each tool that students use: 1.Figure 1. . I don’t know about it I know about it BUT I am not interested I know about it AND I plan to try it someday I tried it BUT I don’t need it I tried it AND I might use it later I am using it BUT I shall stop soon I am using it AND I shall continue using it I stopped using it anymore I stopped using it but I may use it later Responses to these categories or diffusion states will enable identifying how the prospective users should be approached by the change agent. • Full scale questionnaire survey After testing the questionnaire we plan to launch a bigger scale. 5. • Questionnaire survey testing We want to see the overview of different domain studies how they work on group work and how they use tools to support their project collaboration. We have made a questionnaire and we have tested it with 33 students which will be discussed about the result in section 3. They wrote on blog in Danish language as the local language and being translated by using Google translator with tested by a native Danish speaker to avoid misinterpretations. We will discuss about the result of the narratives in section 4. 6. 4. Names of tools against which students are expected to respond were identified through students’ reflections of application use tools they use and why.

Students wrote in different stories under the theme of using tools for project collaboration. If we want to introduce new technology to students. 4) Dislike it. but they did not use shared calendar. Questionnaire testing We have tested with 33 students and got reflection from them to refine the questionnaire to be ready for the bigger scale launching.• Focus group interviews To see students’ project-collaboration current practice we followed a group of students from April to May 2011. Moodle and Mahara which are installed on university’s servers. We can see that mainly students use email. Apart from this institution provided tools they were introduced web 2. Most of the testing students are international student who had been in problem based learning for 1 or 2 semester only. Evernote. groupware. p. Etherpad. 1995. Facebook.2 we have made 8 states as follows 1) Know it. 5) Indifferent. Google services (Google docs. We think to understand their using tools we need a framework or a model. Even though they have been introduced by institution. 163). not present in this paper) 3. online project management. 6) Use but not specify attitude. Skype. At the beginning of the semester they have been introduced to a number of tools for project collaboration by the institution. social network. Students’ narratives We have collected narrative from the first semester students in Humanistic Informatics program. and Wiggio.g. We have got 133 students reply with 51 males and 82 females. or social book marking much as we expect as the claim of Net generation. 2)Tried it. self and supervisor communication from questionnaire testing The result shows some interesting points. Google wave. The result of testing is shown in the figure 2.0 tools e. 7)Use or know but still confuse. Doodle. 3) Like it. Google calendar). We have found the practice which will be discussed in section 5. They may have some basic IT skill to use basic application but they did not have skill to use ICT to support their work in advanced level. We use the model of Stages in the Innovation-Decision Process of Rogers (Rogers. shared file space and voice chat for project collaboration. From the nine states in section 1. it does not mean they will adopt it very quickly as a characteristic of digital native. • Current learning practice workshop and design learning workshop (future work. We asked them to write on blog to tell story of using tools for their project collaboration at the end of semester. for example. Percentage of tools used for group collaboration. . Figure 2. 4.

Others tools. • Moodle. There was a person did not like it because his group wanted tool which allows editing documents simultaneously then they prefer to use Google docs. Dropbox. There were 94 replies about using Google services and most of students like Google and there are 2 students dislike Google because did not see useful for the project. there are some comments about difficult to navigate and access to information as a sample text ‘Moodle is well structured. From these states. After brain storming session students will form group about 4-6 people with specific topic which is agreed by the group. • • • • • • Mahara. There was a person did not like Facebook because he afraid of losing privacy. After being informed. I think I spend more time on Moodle than it really is necessary because I often have problems and to find the various files. 6 replies on Wigio. but it is messy in the way that documents and PowerPoints are not in one place. Skype. There were 23 replies on using Doodle. Google wave. Students have four months for a semester. Students were introduced using Dropbox to share files. Institutions have defined broad project theme in study guide. This can help us to understand the process of doing project. Most of students wrote about using Dropbox and almost of everyone like it especially user-friendly.’(A part of text from the students’ narratives). Facebook. but he prefers to use Skype. After submit the names of group members. Every semester students at Aalborg University have to do project in group. Google Calendar. and Google group). It is quite successful. students will be in so called ‘Brain storming session’ which will bring all students in a class together for second semester of Humanistic Informatics program is about 180 students. the group will be assigned a supervisor.and 8) Use or know but not for this semester. The institution provides Mahara service for students and teachers and expected it to be used as a social network and to support group work. At the beginning of semester students will be informed about project themes for the particular semester which are different from different programs and different semesters. Most of students have bad impression on Mahara since it is too complicated and most of them already use Facebook for communication so they did not find needs for Mahara. we can identify the students’ level of the using for each tool. There were 127 students wrote about the use of Moodle and most of students like Moodle but anyway. Focus group interviews Here we will discuss about a narrative which we have got from observing and interviewing a focus group. 19 replies on Dableboard. . There were 128 students wrote about Mahara service. There were 51 wrote about using Skype for their project work. Most of students like it and others know it but do not use it. 4 replies on Etherpad. First two months they have to attend class and also work on their group project and last two months will be very little or without class for student so they can spend more time on their project with facilitated by supervisor. There are several tools which were introduced but were not popular. The institution provides Moodle service for communication. 5. Google services (includes Google docs. and 2 replies on EverNote. and sharing course materials between teachers and students. There were 115 students who wrote about using Facebook and Almost everyone like it.

Janis and John did not get any specific task but helped everyone. task assignment. for example. The room that they used as the project room was not fixed. they did not use the iPads for editing documents. they did not use Zotero. checking email. They use iPad get infromation for example reading news. They usually contact the supervisor through Cevin email and face to face meeting on sometimes. Group discussion with the researcher were in the same group as well as 2 males also in the same group but not with those females. We started follow them after they had formed their group and a bit of work. Last project these 3 female students Figure 3. They expressed did not use the iPads much because every time they carry their laptops with them and it is easier to work with laptop. meeting with supervisor. Female members stay in Randers city which it takes 45 minutes by train to Aalborg University and two male members live in Aalborg. However. They have separated roles in the group as an organization. they cannot meet everyone at the university every time. meeting time. we followed a group of students who were in the second semester in Humanistic Informatics program. They had to make video and analysis the video. Due to big number of students in faculty of Humanistic. reading documents in Dropbox shared folder specially Ann. Students have to book and use for each week. theories use in analysis. they cannot provide room for every group. Cevin seems to be active for tool adoption. Marie and Janis who have to spend 45 minutes for traveling and spend time to use iPad with 3G connection. This was their second Researcher John project in their university life. The semester theme was about ‘Communication process’.In the spring 2011 semester (February to May 2011). Marie was a secretary for the group who took note and kept track of every discussion. Everyone has got an iPad from the department at the beginning of the semester . John and. Cevin (not their real names). However. They created a closed group in Facebook and they discussed through Facebook. There are Ann. she maintained about schedule and agenda of meetings. Janis. Marie. They were introduced many tools for their project work but they did not use all of them. They had already gone to Aarhus to take a video about discussion between a boss and an employee. Marie and Cevin use MacBook and the other three use Windows laptops. There are many topics were discussed on Facebook. Everyone has a laptop. . Because of geography issue. He said he had tried to use Zotero as been introduced and planed to use for this semester project. Cevin had been elected to be the group leader who makes final decision if there is too much discussion. Sometimes they worked at home and communicated through Skype and put commitments on Facebook and also shared meeting files in Dropbox. Ann was the most active member in the group. They have Marie not much contact to their supervisor since he does not only work for university but also for a school and he keeps travelling. reading book. At the time we came to follow them they were having meeting to plan to write theories about ‘Conversation Analysis’ which was going to be used to analyse the Janis Ann video that they just got. They managed to work with sub group for those who are in Randers and Aalborg. There were 5 members in the group with 3 female and 2 male students.

They said it was very convenient for them to share file without any clicking. they used different tools to support their working but we focused only tools which were used for communication and collaboration as shown in the figure6. Closed-group discussion on Facebook (original discussion in Danish. Discussion and future work From the result of questionnaire testing. They have been introduced tools to support their work but that is not enough to let them adopt technologies. we can see that these students their age are in the digital native. translated by Google translator) Figure 5. However Facebook was used for discussion all along the project life. it just copy and paste in their own computer then the software will synchronize across their computer devices. They may need more training or better guideline to let them understand and adopt them to their practice. however. students’ narratives analysis.Figure 4. . They created folders for everyone to avoid simultaneously editing which can make problem for Dropbox to synchronize the file. they do not use tools to support their work in advanced level. They started writing report since they had meeting about theories to be used in analysis. 6. They were very active to use Facebook rather than using email system. From the following the group we can draw the project processes as in figure6. At each phase. and focus group interview. The students were very impressive of using Dropbox. The project process from our observation from the group can be seen in figure6. Skype was used when they have both scenarios: working alone and sub group working. Shared folder in Dropbox The group used Dropbox to share documents.

6(2). Fibiger (Eds. (2) Students’ group work.Figure 6.networkedlearningconference. (3) More students interview. The Aalborg PBL model Progress. What is the Net Generation? The challenge for future medical education. L. [8] Sandars. Frederiksberg C: Samfundslitteratur Press. Retrieved June 7. [4] Moesby. A. L. Dirckinck-Holmfeld... 29(2-3). M. Designing Virtual Learning Environments Based on Problem Oriented Project Pedagogy. (1)We are working on full-scale survey which asking question about using tools for their project collaboration. (2007). F..htm .. 145-152. [2] Dirckinck-Holmfeld. & Buus. E. Diffusion of innovations.Fink. digital immigrants Part 1. Networked learning (p. References [1] Dirckinck-Holmfeld.. K. Global Journal of Engineering Education.org. A theoretical framework for designing online master communities of practice. which we plan to do to finish the project.. E. 1-6. On the horizon. H. Digital natives. Sorensen. We are going to launch the survey in very soon. Nyvang. In L. 85-88. M. (1995). 9(5). The focus group’s project phases and collaboration & Communication tools There are four works. 31-54). (2010). & Morrison. (2002). [6] Rogers. N.L. Diversity and Chalenges. & Dirckinck-Holmfeld & B. Ryberg. A Survey of Technologies Supporting Virtual Project Based Learning. From Pupil to Student: a Challenge for Universities: an Example of a PBL Study Programme. & Krogh. Mobile Learning for Higher Education in PBL Environments. Aalborg: Aalborg University Press. Free Pr. 267–73). E. L. [5] Prensky.L. (2001). 2010. (4) Future workshop. (2002).. [3] Kolmos.. & Ryberg. K. T. from http://www. (2002). Learning in Virtual Environments (pp.). (2004). [9]Tolsby.uk/past/nlc2002/proceedings/papers/ 40.. T. C. Medical teacher. [7] Rongbutsri. T. (2004). J.

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