An evaluation of online asynchronous support within e-learning environments across the Institutes of technology in Ireland
As the uptake of e-learning continues to increase, it has come to light that engaging students in e-learning requires a large time commitment on the part of the lecturer. This burden may be eased by the expedient use of online asynchronous support tools. This research evaluates the use of asynchronous support tools in the Irish Institutes of Technology (IoTs) and their application to the provision of online support to IoT students. This study provides an evaluation of the perception of IoT students as to the adequacy of asynchronous support offered to them and prescribes for improvement of that support. This research suggests that asynchronous support tools are substantially underutilised within the IoTs and consequently student engagement via asynchronous support is insufficient in meeting students learning needs. While email is identified as the preferred and dominant means of communications, discussion boards and weblogs are not employed to anywhere near potential. The findings suggest that improved use of asynchronous support tools would help redistribute scarce lecturers’ time and address the important issue o f providing online support to students in a ‘just-in-time’ learning manner, rather than a ‘just-in-case’ data repository. In addition it recommends for the integration of e-leaming platforms and their constituent tools with a knowledge base. This would facilitate the lecturer in providing ‘reusable’ and ‘in context’ online support to be availed o f by students if and when required. The findings therefore present two major challenges to IoTs; to enhance student support by substantially improving the current use of online asynchronous support tools and to employ the expedient use of semantic technologies. The findings indicate that there may be an emphasis on e-learning technology to deliver learning content rather than the learning process. The main findings are categorised into seven main issues identified in this research. These are: the rising expectations of students and lecturers from the affordance of technology; the need for to implement a social learner support environment; the need for greater emphasis on publishing quality learner content; the need to address the variance in students IT skills; the need to explore methods to accommodate for 24/7 demand of online support, the need to implement technologies to provide greater mobility of online support, and the develop design strategies for greater accessibility of online learning content. Facing and surmounting these challenges are a vital step in creating and sustaining a quality online supportive environment for both lecturer and student.
The following license files are associated with this item: