Engineering Students’ Virtual Learning Challenges during COVID-19 pandemic Lockdown: A Case Study
1Covenant University, Nigeria; 2Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria; 3Afe Babalola University, Nigeria; 4Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria; 5Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria; 6University of Jos, Nigeria; 7Lagos State University, Nigeria
As a result of the pandemic lockdown, Faculty, Staff and students in Nigerian universities were unable to learn online because of regular power and internet availability. As a major concern to the Nigerian Deans of Engineering, a study was commissioned by the Deans to identify the extent of the problem with a view to identify the research and development areas and proffer an indigenous solution to the problems identified. This paper discusses the results of an online survey administered during the lockdown to a stratified sample size of the over 80,000 engineering student’s population in Nigeria. The initial results showed that there is need to develop some form of a cost-effective but modular and mobile integrated boosted internet-ready power system suitable for teaching, learning and research which is always-on both day and night for learning.
Engineering student experiences of a remotely accessed, online learning environment
North West University, South Africa
Background and motivation
Many would argue that the shift to online teaching and learning environments is not only inevitable but an imperative to align graduate competencies with evolving workplaces (Frydenberg & Andone, 2011) and to ensure that higher education is sustainable into the future (Bourne, Harris & Mayadas, 2005). These shifts require changes: online learning environments need to be designed differently and cannot merely be a replication of traditional learning environments in an online space (Davey, Elliott & Bora, 2019). There is also still uncertainty regarding how easily students can adapt to these changes and whether online environments can adequately facilitate the development and attainment of the intended outcomes and graduate attributes. For many higher education institutions in South Africa and across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a sudden shift from traditional teaching and learning to the online environment. For the university used in this study, teaching and learning changed from a blended learning model incorporating face-to-face and online elements to a fully online-dependent and remote model. These circumstances provide an opportunity to explore student’s experiences of this process and their learning behaviours as they interact with this emergency, remote, online (Hodges et al., 2020) learning environment.
The purpose of this study is to understand student learning behaviours and experiences in an emergency, remote, online learning environment by focusing on process elements (Stufflebeam & Zhang, 2017). The aim is that the findings can provide insights for the design of online teaching and learning environments in general, but also inform similar, future interventions. The proposed research question for this study is:
How do students experience teaching and learning and respond, through learning behaviours, to an emergency, remote, online learning environment?
This study will make use of a survey sent to all students in the faculty of engineering at a South African university (n=1447). Although the research is exploratory, aiming to draw out student experiences, the survey design will incorporate concepts from relevant literature to probe aspects of online learning and emergency, remote learning that have been studied in other contexts. The survey will use general questions to understand the context of each student, closed-ended Likert scale questions to understand student experiences and learning behaviours (Entwistle & Peterson, 2004) and open-ended questions to explore emerging factors. The surveys will be analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic content analysis. It is expected that a minimum response rate of 25% is achievable based on past surveys of this nature, although a recent readiness survey resulted in a response rate of almost 70%.
Findings and Conclusions
The findings are expected to provide insight on students’ experiences of this online learning environment which could be used in similar interventions in the future. Furthermore, although the circumstances around the abrupt introduction of online learning is likely to influence results, valuable data can be gained regarding online learning more broadly. It is expected that the findings will highlight challenges experienced by students and the intended and unintended consequences of an online learning environment. The findings will be particularly important for a South African context that has unique challenges associated with student access.
Discussion Forums in Vector Calculus: Reflecting on the quality of engineering students’ online interactions
University of Cape Town, South Africa
A worldwide pandemic has disrupted the academic program and the situation demands that we do things differently, teaching and learning of Mathematics notwithstanding. With uncertainties as to when the academic program will resume Universities worldwide have had to rethink their academic provision and academics have been guided to take their courses online.
Making the Vector Calculus course fully online and yet limited to low tech options, all our students can access, the aim was to create an engaging and inclusive environment for students to learn mathematics concepts. With an acknowledgement of the important role that mathematics plays in engineering there was an imperative for the 9 week online engineering mathematics provision to include in addition to basic knowledge the fostering of skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration and communication, all arguably important for the development and expertise of future engineers.
Discussion forums have long been used in education enabling students to easily and asynchronously access and respond to what their peers, tutors and lecturers have posted and in so doing creating an interactive online classroom. Although much is written about the use of online discussion forums in higher education, few studies refer to its use and how effective these online interactions are to the teaching and learning dynamic especially in Mathematics courses.
The research is guided by the question“ What is the quality of interactions in asynchronous discussion forums and how does it impact teaching and learning in Vector Calculus? This preliminary research study rooted in constructivist theories of learning employed a conceptual framework to assess the quality of students participation in this community of learning.The three pronged conceptual framework assesses content, interaction quality and objective measures. Qualitative and quantitative methods in the form of surveys, lecturer reflections and course site analytics yielded data for analysis.
The findings demonstrate the various benefits of discussion forums in creating an interactive community of learning in a Vector calculus course. Lecturer and students reflect positively on the quality of interactions and the lessons learnt will inform future design and best practice for online discussion forum use in higher education mathematics classrooms.
Supporting departmental innovation in eLearning during COVID-19 through eLearning champions
1CPUT, South Africa; 2CPUT, South Africa
While the adoption of blended or online learning has been spreading across the world, it is not always implemented in a way that transforms teaching and learning. More often than not, technology is used to support traditional ways of teaching and learning. At our institution we have adopted a blended learning definition, that rather focusing on tools and technologies, highlights the importance of pedagogical considerations. Following Gilly Salmon’s Carpe Diem design process and Laurillards ‘Six of ways of learning’, we encourage lecturers to carefully think about learning design, emphasising learner needs and disciplinary and institutional context. This study follows six lecturers in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, who are known as so-called ‘eLearning champions’. eLearning champions are “individuals who emerge to take creative ideas (which they may or may not have generated) and bring them to life. They make decisive contributions to the innovation process by actively and enthusiastically promoting the innovation, building support, overcoming resistance, and ensuring that the innovation is implemented” (Beath, 1991, p. 355). We are interested in the strategies that these eLearning champions employed to support their departments before and after COVID-19 with moving teaching and learning online. At the beginning, novice lecturers saw online teaching as simply transferring their face to face teaching strategies online. How to design for interactive online content, student engagement and appropriate online assessment was an unfamiliar territory. Preliminary findings show the importance of context-sensitive learning design, based on student needs and limited resources, modelling transformative practices, creating spaces for sharing and engagement, and offering continued support for novice blended learning lecturers. The paper will conclude with recommendations about how to use some of the lessons learnt during the period of remote teaching and learning in a Post COVID-19 time.