What Makes Technology Mediated Instruction (TMI) Succeed?

April
1999
Robert Breuer, Las Positas College

@ONE is a grass-roots, faculty-driven project, which last year conducted interviews with California college faculty practitioners who are effectively using technology to enhance or deliver instruction. Their uses of new technologies (multimedia, the web, E-mail, or computer simulations) prompt them to revise the structure of a course, alter assignment design, and to reconsider the ways in which students approach learning. TMI offers very flexible teaching media.

Some California college and university faculty have begun to explore open entry/exit modules, which have untapped potential for tailoring courses to the diverse talents of the community college population. For example, students who are highly motivated with a strong academic foundation can achieve transfer more quickly; others who have a strong base in particular content areas can opt for early exit and focus attention on those subjects which require more effort; students with special needs have the ability to take charge of their learning, can pace how and when they review materials, and formulate responses. For example, Judy Meyer of Santa Barbara City College found that providing materials on-line (and this can be done with E-mail and other technologies as well) is extremely helpful to ESL and students with disabilities, for such strategies reduce the anxiety of losing what is said in lecture.

According to other faculty practitioners, E-mail has greatly improved the quantity and quality of teacher/student interaction and student/student interaction. Access to instructors is often restricted to posted office hours; working students, students with family responsibilities, and those enrolled in night courses often find it difficult to meet directly with the instructor. These students also often find that traditional instruction restricts peer interaction to class meetings or to intervals immediately before or after class. E-mail, by enabling asynchronous discussion, solves such access issues. It provides the opportunity for increased contact with the instructor, fuller participation in peer discussions, and increased participation in collaborative projects. While these pioneers caution that faculty and students must be trained to use E-mail, all testify to its effectiveness in encouraging effective contact between students and faculty, promoting prompt feedback, and developing reciprocity and cooperation among students.

Many faculty have found that asynchronous discussion increases and improves the quality of student time on task and provides those with diverse talents and modalities of learning with enhanced learning opportunities. For example, participation is easier for students with disabilities and multi-lingual students (who may need to reread materials and revise response) and for students who are often silent in traditional classroom discussions, which privileges quick response.

TMI motivates faculty and students to keep up with changing technologies and encourages faculty to explore and experiment with the instructional potential new technologies offer. This translates into increased computer literacy skills for students preparing to enter a technology rich workplace. John Herzog of CSU Northridge finds the process endlessly exciting. Every time you go on the Internet, he observes, you go on a treasure hunt.

The same is true for students. Marshal Cates (CSU Los Angeles) notes that exposure to multimedia, E-mail, and the Web provides students with incremental increases in computer literacy, and Eric Harpell of Las Positas College reports that tying computer literacy to learning tasks allows students to adapt and modify their skills in order to achieve learning and results in other classes. Finally, Christine Pitchess of Joblink (Coastline College) has found that students transfer computer literacy and teamwork skills to the workplace and this has received unanimous positive response from supervisors.

Clearly, faculty and students alike find that using technology to achieve learning promotes the good practice of a self-renewing process. According to Susan Adrian of Mission College, freedom combined with sufficient student desire equals a dream learning situation.

Despite our being located on 107 statewide community college campuses, faculty are brought together through emerging technologies. As faculty ourselves, the @ONE project is one good place to connect. Our @ONE website provides one place to find support and information on technology training. California community college faculty and staff are invited to find one another and many other news items regarding California Community College technology training by visiting our website at http://one.fhda.edu and joining the @ONE eCommunity.

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