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University of Hradec Králové Faculty of Informatics and Management The Impact of Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication Tools in Distance Education A case of Ethiopian Higher Academic Institutions

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University of Hradec Králové Faculty of Informatics and Management The Impact of Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication Tools in Distance Education A case of Ethiopian Higher Academic Institutions Master s Thesis Alemat Gebru Gerecheal May, 2015 Univerzita Hradec Králové Fakulta Informatiky Managementu Dopad Synchronních a Asynchronních Komunikačních Nástrojů v Distančním Vzdělávání Případ Etiopských Vysokoškolských Akademických Institucí Master s Thesis Alemat Gebru Gerecheal May 2015 ii Univerzita Hradec Králové Fakulta Informatiky Managementu Dopad Synchronních a Asynchronních Komunikačních Nástrojů v Distančním Vzdělávání Případ Etiopských Vysokoškolských Akademických Institucí Master s Thesis Author: Alemat Gebru Gerecheal Branch of Study: Information Management (IM4) Advisor: Poulová Petra, Doc. RNDr. Ph.D. Hradec Králové May, 2015 Declaration: I, Alemat Gebru Gerecheal, declare that this thesis is my own work and that it has not been presented and will not be presented to any other University in a similar or any other degree award. In Hradec Králové Date:.. Signature I Acknowledgment Foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my advisor Doc. RNDr. Petra Poulová, (Ph.D) for the continuous support of my research, for her patience, motivation and enthusiasm. Her immense knowledge on elearning and guidance helped me in all the time of research, including creating the test web conferencing environment and writing of this thesis. I could not have imagined having a better advisor and mentor for my thesis. Secondly I would like to thank System Administrators of University of Hradec Kralove for their support in creating the elearning and Web Conference Testing Environment. Finally, I most gratefully acknowledge my parents, family, and friends for all their support throughout the period of this research. II Abstract Distance education was already a mature field when the Internet became public. Its three sub-fields (correspondence, audioonly, and audio-visual) had each developed as a result of specific technologies but were constrained by the limits of those media. Although the expansion of the Internet blurs the boundaries, distance education technologies are divided into two modes of delivery: synchronous learning and asynchronous learning. The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of using synchronous and asynchronous communication as an alternative to face-to-face meetings in hybrid classes in Ethiopian higher education; this paper also documents the experiences of a wide variety of Ethiopian higher academic institutions that have benefited both academically and financially from the implementation of these enabling technologies. In addition, to date, few comprehensive studies have examined influence of infrastructure and culture that challenges the adoption of distance learning technologies in the country. Distanční vzdělávání, bylo již zralé v době, kdy se internet stal veřejně dostupným. Každé z jeho tří základních dílčích polí (textová korespondence, pouze zvuk, video obsahující zvukovou stopu), byly výsledkem specifických technologií, ale každé z nich bylo vázáno na možnosti a limity jejich jednotlivých oblastí, kde se používaly. Ačkoliv rozšíření internetu stírá jednotlivé hranice, distanční vzdělávací technologie, jsou rozděleny do dvou používaných metod: synchronní vzdělávání a asynchronní vzdělávání. Cílem této studie je zkoumat dopad využití synchronní a asynchronní komunikace, jako alternativu k face-to-face setkáním v hybridních třídách v etiopské oblasti vyššího vzdělávání; Tento dokument také zachycuje širokou škálu zkušeností z etiopských institutů vyššího vzdělávání, které díky zavedení těchto technologií, získaly mnohé výhody jak po akademické stránce, tak po stránce finanční. Kromě toho, v současné době, bylo provedeno několik komplexních studií, které zkoumaly vliv na infrastrukturu a kulturu země, kde mimo jiné zároveň vyzvaly k zavedení distančních vzdělávacích technologií v zemi. III Acronyms: LMS: Learning Management System WCS: Web Conferencing System SALT: Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning Tools CMS: Content Management System VC: Video Conferencing PCI: Plasma Channeled Instruction Keywords: Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication tools, Online Learning, Web Conferencing System, Learning Management System, Hybrid classes. iv Table of Contents Declaration... I Acknowledgment..II Abstract....III Acronyms... IV 1. Introduction and Background ICT in Ethiopian Higher Academic Institutions Current ICT Initiatives and Projects WoredaNet Initiative SchoolNet Ethiopia Distance Learning Implementing ICT in Education Literature Review Distance Education Types of Online Learning Approaches Hybrid or Blended Courses Distance education technologies Synchronous and Asynchronous learning The Need for Synchronous and Asynchronous Interaction Academic benefits Financial Benefits Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning Platforms Web-conferencing systems History of Web Conferencing Review of Researches Made on Synchronous Conferencing The Advantages and Disadvantages of Web-Conferencing Web Conferencing Platforms used for Education and collaboration Video Conferencing Vs Web Conferencing v 2.13. BigBlueButton Web-conferencing System Research Purpose Study Methodology Settings of the Study Creating elearning environment in UHK Course Creation Web conferencing with BigBlueButton Participants Data collection Data analysis Study Findings Limitation of Study Recommendation and Conclusion Bibliography Appendices Appendix 1 - Academic Institutions Participated on Survey Appendix 2 - Coding Scheme for Data Analysis Appendix 3 - Coding Examples Based on the Coding Scheme vi 1. Introduction and background Ethiopia is a federal democratic state located in the eastern part of Africa. Ethiopia s economy is largely based on agriculture, which accounts for 46.6% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and 85% of total employment. Over the past decade, Ethiopia has attained high economic growth, averaging 10.7 percent per year. According to the World Bank report, in 2012 Ethiopia was the 12th fastest growing economy in the World. If the country continues its historically impressive growth performance, it could potentially reach middle income status by Education is the key to the country s fast economic growth; at this time there are a number of public and private universities and colleges exist in Ethiopia. These universities and colleges are the main resources for establishing sustainable development in the country by searching for, cultivate, preserve, and transmit knowledge. Following the 1994 education and training policy reforms, the ministry of education (MOE, 1994) of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) has made a number of paradigm shifts with respect to the teaching and learning practices that encompassed the introduction of student-centered learning (active learning approaches), teachers training, ICT [such as television, radio, internet, videos, films etc.] integration in education, so as to improve the flexibility, accessibility and quality of education. 1 1.1. ICT in Ethiopian Higher Academic Institutions In a baseline survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, it emerged that most universities and institutions of higher learning in Ethiopia have computers. However, these computers are few and, therefore, shared at a student-computer ratio of 10:1 in most cases. The study also showed that despite the presence of computers, most of the institutions lack a network infrastructure and have limited connectivity. The lecturers are yet to adopt ICT as a teaching tool, and only a small number of students use computers and the Internet as a learning resource. One of the key roles that ICT has played in the higher education sector is that of distance learning through the Internet. In Ethiopia, however, most of the nation s universities have indicated they are not involved in electronic distance education (EDE) initiatives; in fact, only 15% of private universities have indicated that they use EDE. However, there has been some movement from some universities. The University of Addis Ababa, for instance, has an ICT development office charged with the sole responsibility of implementing ICT initiatives. These include developing systems and infrastructure for use by students, lecturers, and the administration. The university is also collaborating with the Indira Gandhi National Open University on electronic distance education. At the school level, the co-ordination seems to be centralized at the Ministry of Education through the Regional Education Bureau. However, at the university and college level, it appears most activities are carried out and co-ordinate by the universities themselves. Other players in government include the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the Ministry of Capacity Building, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of ICT. 2 1.2. Current ICT Initiatives and Projects WoredaNet Initiative This is a major e-government initiative that connects all 600 of Ethiopia s local councils (woredas) to 11 regional capitals through Internet telephone and video-conferencing..) Half the links are by cable, and half by satellite, The initiative also provides connectivity to the SchoolNet, ehealth, and the soon-to-be launched AgriNet. WoredaNet is implemented by the Ethiopia Telecommunication Agency with funding from the World Bank and the African Development Bank throug h the Ministry of Capacity Building. SchoolNet Ethiopia The joint initiative by the Ministry of Education and UNDP is probably the most visible project in the country with a total of 181 schools equipped with a minimum of 15 networked computers per lab all connected to the Internet. An additional 15 schools were to be equipped with computers and a printer by the end of February There are new programmes around this initiative in the planning stages, including creating an extranet that will connect the schools Distance Learning The Ministry of Education has initiated distance learning in initiative using videoconferencing with the Indira Gandhi National Open University in India. The project has started accepting students, mostly teachers, and offering master s degrees in economics, marketing, and business administration. The project is in collaboration with the University of Addis Ababa, Alemaya University, and St Mary s College. 3 1.4. Implementing ICT in Education: What Helps and What Hinders? Unlike many African countries where educationalists are still grappling with policy issues and trying to formulate strategies for adoption of ICT within their education sector, Ethiopia has done well in developing a detailed strategy and an accompanying implementation plan all with action plans and timelines. However, chalk and talk is still the predominant method of delivering instructions across the country. Even though some higher educational institutions such as Addis Ababa University, Jimma University, Mekelle University, Bahirdar University and Gondar University are increasingly employing synchronous and asynchronous internet-based technologies in their educational settings, adoption of distance education technologies is still very much in its infancy. Learners have begun demanding ubiquitous, on-demand and quality e-learning opportunities with enough support services in recent years. To meet these demands, there is need for developing affordable, efficient, easily accessible, open, flexible, well-designed, learner-centered, distributed, and facilitated learning environments. With rapid growth in web technology, it becomes more possible to fulfill these demands. Thus, the research has been done on web-conferencing in fully online courses, and on hybrid classes which are a combination of face-to-face meetings and online instruction. Considering the fact that Ethiopia is a third world country with low technology and it faces many challenges in the provision of services, this research would also like to find out and identify key constraints in seeking to implement and develop online learning strategies and practices, and also to suggest some measures to be taken to improve the adoption and integration of synchronous and asynchronous learning technologies in distance education. Based on the findings and evidences provided by respondents, it is difficult to draw overarching generalizations about the practices of using synchronous and asynchronous online learning tools and their impacts in Ethiopian higher academic institutions. Nevertheless, three main conclusions can be drawn: 4 1. There is a wide variety of different practices of using synchronous and asynchronous communication tools for online learning (distance education) in Ethiopia; 2. Usage of synchronous and asynchronous communication tools for distance education is still very much in its infancy across most of the country s higher education institutions 3. There is much enthusiasm amongst respondents for developing the potential of integrating synchronous and asynchronous communication tools in their institutions. 5 2. Literature Review 2.1. What is Distance Education? Distance education or distance learning is a mode of delivering education and instruction, often on an individual basis, to students who are not physically present in a traditional setting such as a classroom. Distance learning provides access to learning when the source of information and the learners are separated by time and distance, or both. A number of other terms (distributed learning, e-learning, online learning, etc.) are used roughly synonymously with distance education. However distance is the oldest and mostly commonly used term globally Types of Online Learning Approaches There are three types of elearning approaches: Enhancing approach: The IT is used to support, facilitate and enhance the face to face (f2f) learning by using web-based technology. This approach should reduce a maximum 24% of f2f meetings. Blended approach: It mixes traditional and online learning; consequently, substantial portion of content is delivered online. Typically this approach can reduce 25 to 75% of f2f meetings. Online approach: It uses the virtual learning, which can be realized without any need to f2f meeting, however, it could has some f2f meeting, e.g. for exams. 6 2.3. Hybrid or Blended Courses Hybrid or Blended are names commonly used to describe courses in which some traditional face-to-face seat time has been replaced by online learning activities. The purpose of a hybrid course is to take advantage of the best features of both face-to-face and online learning. A hybrid course is designed to integrate face-to-face and online activities so that they reinforce, complement, and elaborate one another, instead of treating the online component as an add-on or duplicate of what is taught in the classroom. (uwm.edu) The definition of hybrid or blended continues to be a much debated topic, as does the use of the term hybrid or blended itself. Although many definitions of hybrid and blended learning exist, there is a convergence upon the three key points identified above: (1) Web-based learning activities are introduced to complement face-to-face work; (2) seat time is reduced, though not eliminated altogether; (3) the Web-based and face-to-face components of the course are designed to interact pedagogically to take advantage of the best features of each. This Web site uses the term hybrid throughout for historical reasons specific to our campus; we intend our usage, however, to include the alternative nomenclatures blended or mixed mode. How do hybrid courses differ from Web enhanced and online courses? While Web enhanced courses may have a course Website or some instructional activities online, these supplement but do not replace face-to-face coursework. Students continue to meet in the classroom for the standard number of scheduled hours for that course. An online or distance education course is conducted entirely and exclusively via the course management system assessable from the Internet. The online format is the primary method to deliver the course materials. Communication and interaction occur online between faculty and students. All assessment of student work is conducted online. Although most institutions recognize a continuum from Web enhanced to hybrid to fully online courses, there is no broadly accepted taxonomy or cutoff points for these three course formats. As a general rule of thumb, courses in which fewer than 20% of the learning activities occur online are more likely to be labeled Web enhanced than hybrid. At 7 the other end of the continuum, many institutions for obvious logistical reasons require that a course advertised as online in fact include no face-to-face component, and that 100% of learning activities be Web based. However, even here there are a few institutions in which a program identified as online may include an initial face-to-face orientation session, so the distinction between hybrid and fully online can blur on this end of the continuum as well. Is there a recognized standard for the structure and schedule of hybrid courses? No, the schedule and structure of hybrid courses can significantly vary from one class to another. This underscores the pedagogical flexibility characteristic of the hybrid model. The instructor of a hybrid course typically determines what instructional activities should be online or face-to-face depending on the learning goals, course objectives, content, and available resources. Similarly, the timetable for face-to-face versus online work can be organized in quite different ways that may reflect not only pedagogical criteria but also the particular circumstances of the instructor and students. Here are a few examples of hybrid courses that illustrate different structures for the deployment of face-to-face and online learning activities: The instructor lectures and facilitates class discussion in the face-to-face classes, students complete online assignments based on these classroom activities, then these online assignments are posted to asynchronous discussion forums for online discussion; An instructor places lectures online using voiceover PowerPoint or streaming media for students to review, then subsequently in class students use these preliminary online materials to engage in face-to-face small group activities and discussions; Students prepare small group projects online, post them to discussion forums for debate and revision, then present them in the face-to-face class for final discussion and assessment. By the same token, hybrid schedules can be quite diverse: 8 A typical practice is for an instructor to meet with the class face-to-face for a couple of weeks, then go online for a week; Alternatively, the first few weeks of the course may be face-to-face preparation, followed by an extended period (such as a month or more) of online work; or a night class that would ordinarily meet face-to-face for three hours once a week reduces each class meeting by 45 minutes and requires the students to complete assignments online in lieu of maintaining the full three hours of face-to-face class time. 9 2.4. Distance Education Technologies Although the expansion of the Internet blurs the boundaries, distance education technologies are divided into two modes of delivery: synchronous learning and asynchronous learning. In synchronous learning, all participants are present at the same time. In this regard, it resembles traditional classroom teaching methods despite the participants being located remotely. It requires a timetable to be organized. Web conferencing, videoconferencing, educational television, instructional television are examples of s
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