A Victoria university is in its second year of a digital learning program that is replacing whiteboards with PC tablets.
Katharina Franke, research head at the eEducation Centre at Monash University, says the technology is paying off.
The system, called myLearningSpace, combines the tablets with an in-house-developed software that allows students to connect to instructors and to one another. The students import content, share a virtual whiteboard, collaborate online, conduct chats and pick up lessons where they left off at any time.
A pilot program was launched in 2009 in the university’s School of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. The program is still contained in the medical school for the 2010 school year, but is now expanded to nine courses, 200 instructors and more than 1,000 students.
Franke said 89 percent of students in the 2009 pilot program said myLearningSpace made their classes more engaging.
“The majority reported that it improved their motivation, helped them understand better, helped them keep up with the pace of the class, and increased their interaction with the lecturer.”
The program also has had a positive effect on the instructors, challenging them to reflect on their approaches to teaching, Franke said.
The myLearningSpace program was recently honored by the eLearning Industry Association of Victoria‘s Excellence Awards.
Adam Shoemaker, Monash University deputy vice-chancellor, says the program resonates well with students because it behaves much like the way young people connect outside the classroom.
“We know that social networking has become so popular because it allows young people to connect, engage and exchange personal informational quickly and in real time. (MyLearningSpace’s software) allows students to do in-class what social networking does for their social activities. That is genuinely exciting.”
Another Victoria learning center, Box Hill Institute, was awarded by the state’s eLearning Industry Association for a virtual office block that teaches students about sustainability. The institute’s “Green Skills” students guide avatars around the office block and access YouTube videos, wikis, blogs and other course-related information.
Image by Tess Watson