But What Approaches Do They Want?

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF3 // This paper reports the progress of a research team currently investigating students’ media preferences at the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK). The overall aim was not to find out which medium was ‘best’, but which medium students preferred for specific study tasks, and what mixture of media would be most effective. // Such ideas and investigations are not new. ‘Getting the mixture right’ (Daniel and Marquis, 1972) refers to ensuring the right mix of interaction and independence for distance learning students. The project thus tried to determine how online learning can be integrated with existing modes of teaching (print-based, audio-visual, face-toface) to ensure a mix of technologies that encourages appropriate amounts of interaction and independence and thus provides an optimal learning environment. // As access to online resources becomes as commonplace as access to a telephone (OUHK surveys reveal that such a time is close), online elements will become more closely integrated with other course materials and the overall study environment. This leads to the natural question of ‘how much’ of each mode is required in each course. A particular focus of the project consequently became the investigation of student attitudes to various forms and approaches of online education (Palloff and Pratt, 1999; Powers & Guan, 2000). Do they prefer independent activities (reading, searching, listening, watching, etc.) or do they look for opportunities for interaction (computer-mediated communication, interactive activities, etc.)? Further, which forms and approaches are better suited to which technology? // The importance of such work has been emphasized in the literature. For example, under the heading of ‘Where is research needed’, Meyer (2002, p. vii) adds a “plea for answers to the question about what mix of media (including, of course, face-to-face instruction) works best for which purpose.” Further, in the search for the ‘ideal online course’, Carr-Chellman and Duchastel (2000) note that educators are often relying on the availability of software, their own personal whims, existing institutional norms and other not-necessarily pedagogical factors to guide their development work. This project thus aimed to assist the OUHK, at both management and teaching level, to better plan and develop its online courses, by providing research evidence.

Hong Kong