Virtual and international learning experiences in the Development 2.0 Course

CIRCMI – Research on Information, Customer and Innovation Management in the Faculty of Natural Sciences offered a virtual course, titled Development 2.0, which is, Information and Communications Technologies for Development 2.0. The course was done with three groups of students, in autumn semester 2015, spring semester 2016 and autumn semester 2016. In class 1 and 2, there were 32 participants from Finland, Germany, and South Africa. In class 3 there were 57 participants who were from Finland, Kenya and South Africa. We tried to improve the learning process from the first experience which was normal teacher-focused learning to the third experience which was team-work focused. The second experience was the blend of the first and third course experience.

From this course experience we researched on the role of technology in education and focused on how to improve the learning process. This is because the increase in learning technologies due to the advances in technology also means an ever increasing room for improvement in terms of the learning process. We analyzed three learning processes from the three classes: teacher focused, team-work focused and a blend of the two. The results show varying learners’ accomplishments from these three learning processes. For instance, the teacher focused had the highest students’ completion ratio, 31 out of the 32 students completed the course. While the team focused seemed more demanding for the students with 17 out of 57 students completing the course. However, the team-work focused class had the highest number of different perceived qualities of learning. It should be noted also that the courses were organized in different times of a year and this could have influenced the number of students, well as, the number of students who completed the course. For example, the course offered close to holiday season like Christmas tended to have few students. This could also influence the results as a whole, such as, perception towards the learning qualities and the class performance.

This study highlights different learning processes in an attempt to promote virtual learning and maximize the benefits from the experience. Three learning processes, namely teacher focused, teamwork focused and a blend of the two in a virtual learning environment showed different results in terms of academic performance and learners’ perception to the qualities of learning. Additionally, other important aspects of virtual learning, such as the loneliness in the learning environment are noted and thus calls for further research. Learning process should always be improved in line with the advances in learning technologies. The negative effects should also be unearthed and efforts to reduce their effects should be done.

For detailed description of this course experience and the study conducted, we have a paper under review at the WCCE 2017 – IFIP TC3 World Conference on Computers in Education.

Writers: Professor Mikko Ruohonen, Project coordinator Katriina Vartiainen and Researcher Nicholas Mavengere CIRCMI, Faculty of Natural Sciences