The student, technology and learning: A postphenomenological analysis

Stephen Relf, Jennifer Sappey

    Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paperpeer-review

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    As educational media and online learning become a familiar feature of educational delivery, it is timely to remember that for many mature age students who return to study for the first time since schooling, the virtual learning environment (VLE) can be a potential impediment rather than an enabler of their success. While the VLE is an integral part of the lifeworld of the academic teacher and the educational designer, one cannot make this assumption about student learners, neither can one assume how they will engage and use the VLE in their new role as online learner. With the increasing sophistication of our new technology practices (new, because learning has always involved technologies, even the humble chalkboard (Daniel 1997)) there is an imperative to remain attuned to the challenges that online learning still poses for learners as they struggle to engage at even the most basic level. Education is now in a state of flux, technologically and pedagogically. There is therefore a need to review the education practice.This paper offers a case study of the experiences of mature age university students, new to both university study and online learning, and their engagement with a VLE at Charles Sturt University, one of the largest tertiary distance education providers in Australia. While the case was designed to be a comparative study of mature age students studying by distance education and their Generation Y peers studying face-to-face on campus, surprisingly all ninety on campus students were silent in the use of new technologies, preferring to engage in the assessment task using their familiar technologies of face-to-face meetings in preference to the VLE.This paper asks the question: What are the dynamics of the online social learning environment for first time users and how are they enabled and restricted by it?Using Ihde's (1990, 2006) philosophy of technology we analyse the group processes and interactions of fifty students working collaboratively in seven virtual teams to complete a prescribed assessment task over a six week timeframe. We report on the learning experience of two of the teams that clearly illustrate Ihde's tenet of the non-neutrality of technology. While the quality of the work from these two teams was identical, the way in which these groups worked with and through the same range of Web 2.0 technologies highlights the non-neutrality of technology, and its potential to simultaneously amplify and reduce the experience of learning. In the context of high attrition rates for first year university students, if we are going to facilitate their learning success, it is timely to review our students' engagement with the VLE.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEDMEDIA 2011
    EditorsT. Bastiaens, M. Ebner
    Place of PublicationChesapeake, VA
    PublisherAssociation for the Advancement of Computing in Education, and University of Lisbon
    Number of pages9
    ISBN (Electronic)188009435X
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    EventWorld Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications (EDMEDIA) - Lisbon, Portugal, Portugal
    Duration: 27 Jun 201101 Jul 2011


    ConferenceWorld Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications (EDMEDIA)


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