The role of ICT in the shift towards student-centred learning in higher education

The role of ICT in the shift towards student-centred learning in higher education

Table of Contents




Abstract

Over recent decades, there has been a significant rise in the use of information and communication technology (ICT) and a greater emphasis on student-centered learning (SCL) in higher education all over the world. The introduction of ICT- and SCL-based approaches is intended to improve the quality of teaching and learning to better prepare students for the 21st-century workplace. Despite the curricular reform initiated in the early 2000s which involved the introduction of ICT and SCL, teachers continued to use traditional teaching methods, and ICT played a secondary role in teaching and learning. The current research study uses four different theoretical frameworks and models to explore and analyse the use of ICT in combination with SCL to improve teaching and learning practices at Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), Mozambique.

An interpretative research approach was used to examine the introduction of a new pedagogical model with support for ICT for teaching and learning. Action research to introduce pedagogical innovation and the use of a case study to analyse the process of curricular reform were the overall research strategies and the aim of this was to gain a better understanding of the impact of SCL and ICT on the lecturers and on changes to teaching and learning methodologies across the University. Data were collected using a combination of interviews (37 students and 24 lecturers from UEM, and managers, ICT and distance education experts from six different universities), questionnaires (66 students and 104 lecturers from UEM, and managers, ICT and distance education experts from 13 different universities including UEM), observations, and workshops with students and lecturers.

The findings showed that the adapted flexibility-activity framework can combine any teaching and learning methods and strategies, with a focus on a student-centered approach, depending on the learning competency and learning objectives that students are expected to develop. This research study contributed to the design of new curricula within an integrated ICT and SCL, as well as a desirable instructional design of the courses that are appropriate to the UEM context. The research study also analysed several factors drawn from different frameworks of pedagogical innovation using ICT and identified further factors that have been implemented and have contributed to improving teaching and learning at UEM. Key factors include institutional policies, ICT infrastructure, access, pedagogical approaches, and partnerships with the public and private sector, and these have contributed to the effectiveness of SCL and ICT education. It is shown that the particular interests of the teacher and students are the primary factor in the successful implementation of SCL and ICT. Moreover, the findings contribute to the design and implementation of new training and professional development, based on technological pedagogical and content knowledge (TPACK) principles and on contributions from lecturers and pedagogical coordinators from several higher education institutions in Mozambique. Despite the changes that are taking place at UEM, the allocation of incentives by the institution at faculty and school level and the engagement of the teachers remain factors constituting a barrier to effective implementation.

Keywords: ICT, student-centered learning, pedagogical innovation, educational models, factors in ICT implementation, professional development, higher education, developing countries.

INTRODUCTION

The use of information and communication technology (ICT) as a tool to support modern teaching and learning methods, and especially student-centered learning (SCL) pedagogy, is a widespread practice. Many research studies have addressed this topic, identifying the supportive role of ICT in the implementation of student-centered approaches in higher education (Clark, 2001; Kozma, 2001; Eng, 2005; Balasubramanian et al., 2009). Student-centered learning approaches encourage lecturers to use various methods that allow active learning, such as cooperative learning, open-ended assignments, critical-thinking exercises, simulation, and problem-solving activities (Felder & Brent, 1996: Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2006: Muianga et al., 2013). This modern pedagogical approach has proven to be an effective learning tool in today’s society, where the labor market demands that employees possess both job-related competencies and more generic skills. It is therefore essential that higher educational institutions (HEIs) adopt SCL to provide a foundation for the continued growth of graduates in terms of competence, skills, and knowledge (Janor et al., 2013; Muganga, 2015).

Although Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) had introduced computer engineering to the Faculty of Engineering in the 1980s, the development of the Internet and the launch of courses on basic computer skills for teachers, students and civil servants in general in 1993 was seen as the start of a new phase in the introduction of ICT. Furthermore, in this phase, the university also began serving as an Internet provider for public institutions and provided the use of email for the academic community and non-academic staff. In the 2000s, with curricular reform, the university also began installing computer rooms in some faculties and promoted their use in teaching and learning.

The transition from an industrial society to an information and knowledge society was seen as global development, and many countries in the word were preparing their economies and societies for this new era (Hadad, 2017). Mozambique also took this opportunity by developing new policies in various key areas of the economy, the most important of which included Mozambique’s ICT policy in 2000 and its action plan in 2002. The former provided principles and objectives that allowed ICT to be a driving force for various aspects of national development, contributing to the country’s participation in the global economy based on information and knowledge, and to better governance (Government of Mozambique, 2000). Other objectives of this policy included giving citizens wider access to the information society, the eradication of absolute poverty, improvements to the living conditions of Mozambicans, and the conversion of the country from a mere consumer to a producer of ICTs (Government of Mozambique, 2000).

After nearly 20 years, the Information Society Policy released in 2018 continued to focus on education and human development as key areas for development. The implementation and dissemination of ICT in the educational system offer added value and opportunities for the development of the sector in terms of access and the quality of teaching and learning (Government of Mozambique, 2018). Current global conditions require the population to be educated for new challenges, and specifically those related to the economy, labor market, culture, and social relations, and require people with strong and well-developed competencies. SCL and ICT play major roles in these changes and in the development of this society.

In recognition of the value of ICTs and the role of student-centered education in implementing these changes, UEM initiated curricular reform in 2000. According to the Strategic Plan for Higher Education 2011–2020, one of the main objectives of this curriculum reform was to promote the use of student-centered learning in all pedagogical activities, in order to raise the quality of education and the relevance of the programs offered (MINED, 2011a). Moreover, the focus of higher education was increasingly changing during this period to prepare students with the necessary skills to successfully meet the demands of the modern labor market (MINED, 2011b). The curriculum reform process introduced SCL and ICT as tools for teaching and learning, and there was also a need to provide teachers with the skills and abilities to introduce the changes and pedagogical practices necessary for this new reality.

This study aims to examine the process of the introduction of SCL for teaching and learning, with support from ICT, that began in 2000, taking the implementation by UEM as the main object of research. It should, therefore, be stressed that the purposes of this research study are first to discuss the pedagogical model to adopt and the different teaching and learning strategies to use in this model, and secondly to examine the different ICT tools required, the factors involved in their implementation, and the pedagogical training needed, from the perspectives of the teachers, students, IT technicians and managers of the HEIs involved.

There are many theoretical frameworks and pedagogical models that can be used for the effective implementation and innovation of SCL and ICT for teaching and learning. ICT infrastructure and equipment have advanced a great deal since developing countries began its implementation in the 2000s. Furthermore, equipping the university with the latest generation of computers will not make education effective if other factors are not considered such as implementation within the institution, support from outside of the institution, the organisational climate, staff training and development, resources and ICT policy, and teacher and student support for a more holistic experience. However, for more effective implementation of SCL and ICT in teaching and learning, it is still necessary to develop a culture of innovation at various levels within universities. It is important that a top-down approach is accompanied by a bottom-up approach to speed up implementation.

CONCLUSIONS

This chapter summarises the answers to the research questions of this research study, conclusions, future directions for the implementation of SCL approaches, and the use of ICT in teaching and learning. This chapter also discusses the limitations of this research and closes with recommendations and suggestions for further research.

The overall aim of the five research studies presented in this thesis was to explore the ways in which ICT can facilitate the shift from teacher-centered learning to SCL at UEM in Mozambique. The central question involved how far the use of ICT in education could contribute to improvements in teaching and learning in HEIs, initiated by the curricular reform recommended by the government of Mozambique for the sector of higher education. This aim is reflected in the title of this research study: The role of ICT in the shift towards student-centered learning in Higher Education: Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique: A case study.

Looking at the separate results and findings of the five studies, we can draw the conclusion that the progress has been made towards the shift to SCL with support from ICT tools by answering the following research questions: R.Q. 1: What types of SCL approaches are suitable for UEM in order to improve teaching and learning, according to the literature? (Studies 1 and 4)

After carrying out a thorough literature review of teaching and learning theories and models that were easy to adapt to the context of UEM, it was necessary to select a model that was useful in redefining the role of teachers and students. A teacher in the role of the educator is not just expected to transmit facts and information; his/her task is also to stimulate the imagination, the intellectual curiosity and the creativity of the students via the development of their capacity to analyse and think critically, using real situations taken from work or the community and maximizing the learning opportunities.

The flexibility-activity framework, an educational model by Collis and Moonen (2001) that defines the relationship between flexibility and pedagogy, was used to describe the changes associated with the interventions that took place at UEM. The chosen framework provided guidelines for how to deal with issues related to the acceptance of ICT in the daily practice of lecturers and students.

The flexibility-activity framework proposes a combination of two central pedagogical models. The first is the acquisition-oriented model, which focuses on learning activities that are established in advance and are based on the acquisition of pre-specified knowledge. This pedagogical model is particularly suitable for individual learning and is used to obtain knowledge. The second is the contribution-oriented model, which focuses on learning activities in which students are interacting and communicating with others, learning together, exchanging and discussing ideas, creating a product, solving problems, and thus contributing to the production of additional and personal learning materials. This pedagogical model is primarily a group or community model and is used to build up a membership of a learning community. Collis and Moonen (2001) suggest that both models fit best within a pedagogical approach that focuses on contribution-oriented activities.

The learning activities are designed based on the flexibility-activity framework, and both the acquisition and the contribution model were useful in determining the number of working hours and designing the types of course/module activities. Face-to-face meetings were organised for theoretical and practical guidance and for independent work in order to acquire and develop pre-specified knowledge and pre-determined concepts. An LMS can be used both in groups and individually and can contribute to interactions and exchanges of knowledge with other students. The development of ICT skills is fruitful not only in terms of acquiring the core knowledge of the course/module but also in learning activities that deal with communication and collaboration, information research and information production, cooperation and self-learning, media, and information literacy, critical thinking and problem-solving.

A combination of the acquisition and contribution models made the transition from teacher-centered learning to SCL run more smoothly. The strategies used in the acquisition model are similar to those used in teacher-centered learning, while the contribution model introduced aspects of flexibility to teaching and learning, giving students the opportunity to be responsible for their own learning processes in interactions with each other.

The introduction of a new and innovative teaching and learning model changes the role of the teacher from a deliverer of knowledge to a facilitator of learning. The lecturer facilitates the learning process by providing different learning activities, and students work on these activities individually, in subgroups, inside and outside the classroom, online and with a lecturer, to develop skills that allow them to construct their own knowledge by applying their own learning strategies. The lecturers are also more involved in the organisation of the course activities and in monitoring each student’s interactions via the LMS.

The learning activities are designed based on the flexibility-activity framework and by taking into account the acquisition and contribution models. The number of working hours shows that the design of course/module activities are organised into face-to-face meetings for theoretical and practical guidance, independent work for the acquisition of pre-specified knowledge and the development of pre-determined concepts, and use of the LMS in groups or individually to interact, to contribute to knowledge production and to exchange knowledge with other students. The design of learning activities according to the proposed model must not only be oriented towards the delivery of core knowledge but must also allow the development of ICT skills, communication and collaboration, information research and information production, cooperation and self-learning, media and information literacy, critical thinking and problem-solving. This educational model offers the opportunity to use any teaching and learning approach by combining the acquisition and contribution models and the selection of teaching and learning methods or strategies. Depending on the learning objectives or competencies that the student needs to develop, the teacher can select and combine any teaching and learning methods and strategies such as those suggested in Table 8 or others that are not mentioned.

The students are expected to use the LMS and other ICT tools such as Web 2.0 tools: wikis, podcasts, video sharing, social bookmarking or social networking sites (blogs, Facebook and Twitter). In some courses/modules, they are expected to develop a blog as a portfolio. The new curriculum design model recommends that learning activities must focus on the creation of a realistic learning environment by giving real-world assignments. Students must work in a real context at tasks that link theory and practice.

R.Q. 2: How can ICT support SCL approaches with the aim of improving teaching and learning at UEM? (Studies 1 and 4)

From an analysis of the flexibility-activity framework, it can easily be seen that degrees of flexibility are introduced. The use of ICT gives rise to different dimensions of flexibility that are related to time, content, instructional approaches and resources, delivery and logistics, and entry requirements. The use of ICT in teaching and learning covers most of these dimensions. ICT makes teaching and learning more flexible in terms of time and place, and offers more possibilities for interaction, in terms of social organisation and learning resources. Students can choose a time and place to conduct their studies, and have the opportunity to interact with lecturers and other colleagues, even when they are not present at the same time and in the same place. With the help of the Internet, the students can access various resources for use as learning materials. Since the use of ICT facilitates the introduction of SCL, curriculum reform that aspires to improve the quality of teaching and learning in HEIs can benefit from these findings in terms of acknowledging the integration of SCL and ICT as a catalyst to implement the change from traditional teacher-centered teaching to a new student-centered approach.

R.Q. 3: What factors/aspects are most significant for the integration of SCL approaches and ICT to improving teaching and learning processes at UEM? (Studies 2 and 3).

In the integration of SCL and ICT for teaching and learning, there are several factors that must be considered. In this research, two frameworks (see studies 2 and 3) were selected. Key factors were studied and discussed in-depth, to allow for a comprehensive analysis of the status of implementation of both models in Mozambique in general and at UEM in particular. The framework in study 2 involves the most fundamental factors that should be considered in a developing country such as Mozambique. For the successful implementation of ICT in education, it is important to examine factors such as the ICT policies of governments and HEIs, ICT infrastructure, access to and use of ICT for education, the organisations that are involved in and supporting HEIs, and the pedagogy used. These factors were extracted from Nachmias et al. (2004), and the model also includes external factors such as national and local ICT policy, and rules within the school and organisational climate.

A governmental ICT policy is a key document providing a variety of guidelines for the integration of ICT within a country. Mozambique has a national policy document that defines the priority areas in which ICT can make a significant difference in terms of economic, social, and educational development, although education is seen as the most important area for the development of the country. The policy also underlines the need for the development of an ICT infrastructure, access to and use of ICT in education, and the creation of partnerships and support as key factors in the implementation of ICT in the country.

In addition to the factors mentioned above, another important aspect is that the interests of teachers and students form an additional key factor in the effective use of SCL and ICT for teaching and learning. The literature discusses both teachers and students as essential factors in pedagogical innovation, but does not mention their particular interests as determinants; only the incentives and commitment of teachers are discussed (Collis & Moonen, 2001; Nachmias et al., 2004, Wang et al., 2015) without specifying their intrinsic and extrinsic reasons for choosing to use SCL and ICT in teaching and learning.

An analysis of the results of all of the studies showed that curricular reform that entails the introduction of new approaches to teaching and learning with the use of ICTs as teaching and learning tools involves several factors and that these factors must be considered from a holistic perspective.

R.Q. 4: What is the effect of the professional development of teachers on the use of ICT in teaching and the use of SCL pedagogy in the classroom at UEM? (Study 5).

The SCL approach and ICT for teaching and learning cannot be viewed in isolation, but can be effectively studied in combination; hence, in order to build up more concrete knowledge about the use of both elements for both effective teaching and learning, it is necessary to look at SCL and ICT together. The curriculum should integrate these two elements, and teachers should be able to contribute to this improvement by obtaining knowledge and skills in terms of how to combine different approaches in their daily teaching practice.

This research study also contributed to the design and implementation of corresponding professional development training for teachers in how to use ICT effectively for the enhancement of SCL. Based on recommendations from different studies, the TPACK framework was chosen as a guideline for the design of this new training. Several modules were developed in different areas dealing with the coherent implementation of SCL and ICT. These modules were a combination of the knowledge areas defined in the TPACK framework, such as pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), technological content knowledge (TCK), and technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK). Mastering all of these related knowledge areas is crucial in the professional development of teachers, particularly when they need to adopt new approaches to teaching and learning.

By looking at the new pedagogical practices and the use of ICT for teaching and learning, we can see that the training activities for professional development have had a considerable impact. Teachers who participated were more likely to use ICT for teaching and learning than non-participants. In addition, the training had a positive influence on the use of ICT to support the implementation of SCL.

The study also showed that teachers who participated had different perceptions of the importance and impact of professional development in their day-to-day work than those who did not participate. The decision to take the combination of knowledge areas in the TPACK model as the leading principle in the design of the professional development training contributed significantly to the positive results. This combination was crucial in allowing the participants to understand the pedagogical implications and potential of the of use ICT and SCL. Similarly, the training-induced both technological and pedagogical changes in the teachers and contributed across the institution to improvements in the quality of education in general.

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FULL Paper PDF file:

 

The role of ICT in the shift towards student-centred learning in higher education

The role of ICT in the shift towards student-centered learning in higher education

Muianga, Xavier

xmuianga@dsv.su.se

Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Computer and Systems Sciences.(Technology Enhanced Learning)

2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages

Stockholm: Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University , 2019. , p. 140 Series

Report Series / Department of Computer & Systems Sciences, ISSN 1101-8526 ; 19-006

National category

Computer and Information Sciences

Research subject

Computer and Systems Sciences

Identifiers  URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-167236ISBN: 978-91-7797-658-5 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-659-2 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-167236DiVA, id: diva2:1298381

Public defense:

2019-05-21, Lilla hörsalen, NOD-huset, Borgarfjordsgatan 12, Kista, 14:00 (English)

Opponent

Suhonen , Jarkko, Associate Professor

Supervisors

Hansson, Henrik, Associate Professor

 

PDF reference  and original file: Click here

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Nasim Gazerani was born in 1983 in Arak. She holds a Master's degree in Software Engineering from UM University of Malaysia.

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Professor Siavosh Kaviani was born in 1961 in Tehran. He had a professorship. He holds a Ph.D. in Software Engineering from the QL University of Software Development Methodology and an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Chelsea.

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Maryam kakaei was born in 1984 in Arak. She holds a Master's degree in Software Engineering from Azad University of Arak.

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