The use of Technology in Higher Education

Over the past few years technology has made a huge shift in the primary, secondary and higher education as well as to how students adopt these technologies for their course work. It is clear that British universities have realised the importance of adopting modern technology, as well as to increase their expertise and investing largely into virtual learning system, online learning management systems and providing the lectures rooms with the modern and latest technology. This in turn has enabled universities to becoming much more hands-on and in recognising the added value that these virtual and learning online systems that can make to the student learning experience better. There are many online resources, for example online reading material, journal databases access, lectures slides, discussion forums just to name a few.

Although, there are still large number of students who find the transition to higher education (i.e. universities) strenuous until they become accustomed to the academic language, the concept of independent learning and class room participation. The student experience is under developed in regard to adopting and using technology for educational purposes. For example, submitting an assignment online, using various learning management systems and virtual learning environments to name a few.

A number of students perceived the sole purpose of using the technology is to access the online media such as using social network, instant messaging and audio/video to name a few. In general, students have reported that depending on what training they have undergone or is available to them in adopting and using e-learning resources has had or will have a significant impact on their overall e-learning experience whilst studying at university either it’s being in a positive or negative way.

Additionally, many university students (i.e. academic literature) have also highlighted the complexity of adopting new learning styles and teaching methods all through the student’s studies. It is therefore, apparent that students still believe to some extent the best learning method is the traditional way of face-to-face learning and the delivering of lectures by academic staff in the conventional classroom environment. This enables the students to engage with other students and teachers as well as receiving prompt feedback if and when required.

 

To e-learn or not to e-learn in Pakistan

Pakistan is a developing, multiethnic and multilingual country and has become the second largest economy in South Asia with a total population of approximately 167 millions. Pakistan has long list of colleges and universities across the country but still the literacy rate of the country is low compared to the other countries within the region. Distance learning is another way to learn and provide the facilities to the students who can’t attend the college or university based on their personal circumstance. In the recent years, the both government and people have realized the importance of the ICT and believe that these technologies have tremendous potential in the country. The trends towards ICT education has been increased in the young generation.

The distance learning or e-learning in Pakistan is not a new phenomenon and there are many colleges and universities are providing the e-learning based courses to the students. For example, Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) was the first of its kind to offer distance learning and later broadcasting courses on the TV. Moreover, in 2002 another university was set up (named Virtual University) to meet existing demand in the country. The Virtual University introduced a number of e-learning techniques into the country and offered both e-learning and blended learning to the students. In short, there are many projects and plans going on to improve the education quality and standards. There are many colleges and universities started or planning to join the e-learning arena and will offer to provide an e-learning based courses. There are still many problems which are hindering in the development of the e-learning and uplifting the education quality and standards.

I will try to write a series posts to highlight the number of main problems associated with the e-learning and to identify the key elements which hindering in the development of e-learning in Pakistan.

ICT Infrastructure

The infrastructure is one of the key problems in the development of e-learning in the country. Since 1996, Internet service providers companies are in operation and they had just covered only 29 cities of the country by mid 2000 with 0.1 million internet subscribers. But today, there are more than 200 internet service providers and providing services in more than 1800 town and cities. But most of them are providing only dial-up services to its subscriber. According to the Internet World Stats, only 7.2 percent of the total population used internet. A large number of populations can’t afford or don’t have access to the internet and can’t buy personal computer and subscribe with the internet service provider due to their low incomes. From the last 5 years, the growth of Internet café’s increased massively in both urban and rural areas. These internet café’s provide a cost effective, easy and convenient access to the Internet.

From 2004, the government have had paid its intention towards this industry and invest a large sum to improve the current ICT infrastructure. Both local and foreigner investor flowed their investment in this industry. This investment resulted to increase massively for both cellular and Internet subscribers. But when it comes to the high speed internet like DSL or broadband then there are not many subscribers for these internet services. The DSL and broadband is available only in selected cities so still a large part of the country is not able to access high speed internet. According to the PTA, there are nearly one million subscribers for broadband internet in the country and these subscribers are twice compared to the last year.

There is still a need more resources and money to improve the overall infrastructure which provide the high speed internet and will manage the massive growth of the internet subscriber. During the data gathering from the students, they were more concerning about the speed and availability of the internet.

Presentation at ECEL 2010

I have submitted my first academic paper (gender based study for e-learning in Pakistan) for the European Conference on E-Learning (ECEL) 2010 and it’s been accepted for the conference preceding. This paper has published in the Electronic Journal of e-learning (EJEL). I have had an opportunity to attend the conference and give a presentation of my present at the conference. This conference was held atInstituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto, Porto, Portugal’ on 4th and 5th November 2010. I will upload my presentation along with audio recording.

Abstract:

The purpose of this paper was to highlight the problems affecting male and female students in e-learning in Pakistan. E-learning is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan. A number of studies have been carried out to assess the impact on e-learning. However, to date no study has focused specifically on ‘gender differences’ affecting the development of e-learning and how these factors can be overcome. This paper has identified a number of gender problems associated with e-Learning in Pakistan. It has measured the degree to which these factors affect male and female students. This paper has concluded with a number of practical recommendations for improving e-learning and how these gender differences can be overcome.

 

This comparative study has compared and contrasted an equal number of male (125) and female (125) school leavers (age 16) in ten (five girls schools and five boys schools) state schools in five different cities across Pakistan. The data was collected through 250 online completed questionnaires sent to school leavers through a survey software (SurveyMonkey). These matched samples were used to identify and explore the root causes affecting male and female students in e-learning development. This was followed by six in-depth semi-structured interviews (three male and three female students) in order to gain a comprehensive understanding as to why these various issues in the questionnaire disadvantaged the use and development of e-learning.

 

The results confirmed that there is a great scope for e-learning development in Pakistan. The findings showed a positive attitude among students regardless of their gender in consideration of using e-learning either currently or in the future. However, male students have tended to be exposed and encouraged more in the use and development of e-learning as compared to female students. Thus, a number of problems have disadvantaged many students from taking full advantage of e-learning and its benefits. The originality and the novelty of this paper is the distinctive methodological framework adopted. No other study (to date) has conducted a comparative study of male and female students in terms of e-learning development. There is only a limited amount of work available on e-learning and gender related factors, this paper therefore seeks to fill this gap and contribute to knowledge in the ICT sector.