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Help I Need Somebody! A Study into the effectiveness of Instant Messaging for Tutorial and Pastoral Support

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  • Tutorials are conducted following either traditional communication methods (f2f) or un-conventional communication methods (i.e. through CMC)4 themes emerge from the original requirementsComputer anxiety and the effect of social influence on communication pathwaysThe expectations associated with new forms of CMCStudents intention and engagement with participationThe impact that social influences have on new forms of communication
  • Nicholson (2002) defines an IM service as “a small program that runs in the background on the user’s computer that is connected online to a central hub program elsewhere on the internet.” Users communicate through the medium of text to a prescribed list of names or ‘friends list’ running within the program. The idea of using IM software as a means for communication in the workplace was highlighted by Nardi, Whittaker, and Bradner (2000) as stated in the article by Nicholson (2002). They mentioned “that IM software was frequently used for social and informal communication they called outeraction, which they describe as a process by which people reach out to others in particular social ways to enable information exchange.”  
  • According to Engestrom (1987) the Activity Theory (AT) conceptualises all purposeful human activity as the interaction of elements: subject, object, tools, community, rules, and division of labour. (Engestrom, Y. (1987)According to the Centre for Activity and Developmental Work Research, (2003) the activity model represents the following 5 areas (see highlighted):The object (or objective) is the target of the activity which occurs within and through the system; - In this case, the use of the BBIM tool2) The Tools refer to the internal and/or external mediating factors which assist in achieving the outcomes of the activity; - The BBIM tool3) The community is comprised of one or more people who partake of the object with the subject; - The students4) Rules, refers to the implicit and explicit regulations, norms and conventions that constrain actions and interactions within the activity system; - Time constraints on use, academic etiquette etc5) The division of labour is concerned with the division of tasks both horizontally and vertically amongst community members. – Students and staffEngestrom’s Activity theory would afford the researcher the opportunity to investigate contradiction within the system and between system elements. Cole (1995, p.196) however, argues that the researcher, ‘must attend simultaneously to two classes of concern; what transpires inside the system they study what transpires around it.’ A hybrid framework was developed to account for this. This utilised the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) model - devised by prominent technology acceptance researchers in 2003 (see Venkatesh, V. et al. 2003). Opportunity/ConvenienceSampling was employed as the preferred sampling method because of the nature of the research focussing on an individual group.Researcher has access to groupThe research is group specific
  • Identifying the methodological design for this research (including data collection and analysis methods) was initiated as a result of critically analysing the conceptual and theoretical frameworks, examining the critically appraised research as well as determining positionality. Sultana (2007) considers the declaration of researcher positionality essential in engaging ethically with research respondents. Cohen et al. (2007) opines that a researcher’s positionality will be influenced by philosophical viewpoints, personal experiences and beliefs. A positivist positionality would allow the researchers to engage in deductive reasoning and, in a relatively short space of time, allow them to measure phenomena by taking it apart to examine its component parts (Kruger, 2005). Declaring researcher positionality was seen as a quintessential feature of the ethical critical consciousness raising exercises.Structured interviews were considered for use in this study because not only did they satisfy the positionality of the researchers and research methodological design, they also provide some degree of standardisation. Corbetta (2003) suggests structured interviews are interviews in which each respondent is asked the same questions, using the same structure and the same wording. Bryman (2001) suggests that the goal of this tool is to ensure that respondent’s replies can be aggregated. The structured interview (to some extent) addresses Harre’s (1998) concern that the interviewer (as an embedded feature within the social scene of the interview) could not be independent of the interviewee’s responses.According to Schaffer and Kipp (2009), like the structured interview, the structured questionnaire seeks to demonstrate parity between respondents through asking the same question to each respondent allowing the researcher to compare responses. The questionnaire proposed for use in this study sought to elicit data that could be compared and contrasted with that identified in the interview. Malhotraand Birks (2006) have argued that there is not a scientific process to producing an ideal questionnaire instead suggesting that it is as much an art as it is a science with a good questionnaire being the product of the skill, expertise and experience of the researcher. Within the design and development stage of producing the questionnaire, a purely quantitative approach was adopted in order to provide economy of time in the analysis phase and to produce comparable data. Pre-coding has been described as a method ‘…of conceptualizing research data and classifying them into relevant and purposeful categories for the purpose of data analysis and interpretation’ (Singh, 2007). Fisher and Forfeit (2002) caution that although pre-coding responses to research tools is time consuming in the design phase, it is highly beneficial and time saving when it comes to the data analysis and tabulation/presentation stage. Both research tools would be pre-coded resulting in time efficiency in the data analysis stage. This is what Cohen et al. (2007, p355) describe as ‘front loading’ or, ensuring codes and categories are determined in advance and, like the self-completing questionnaire, it assumes the respondent understands the underlying meanings of questions. This assumption was addressed through a pre-launch piloting phase of the questionnaire in which a critical friend (Smith 2004)was called upon to examine the tools and recommend modifications in order to improve quality and remove ambiguity.
  • There appeared to be a direct correlation between a student’s perceived ability/computer anxiety and interpretation of the usefulness of the tool. About 91% of the group (20) described themselves as ‘highly efficient’ in the use of ICT. Of these, just over 81% (16) were of the belief that the BBIM tool had multiple-benefits including allowing learners a virtual critical thinking space in which they could meet unsupervised and providing a forum for supervised academic and pastoral tutorial support. Over 60% of students organised or contributed towards online ‘self-help’ sessions and reported positively upon these experiences. About 86% (19) of the students identified social influence as a key factor in their behavioural usage intention. Peer influence/encouragement are to be significant contributing factors here and may be evidenced in students setting up and using self-help groups. The majority of learners (just over 95% = 21) highlighted that the academic centric nature of the tool made it easy to use (and arguably academically focussed) and provided a worthwhile alternative to the traditional face-to-face tutorial.
  • Up to 50% of the students (from a cohort of mature P/T learners) identified that they would prefer traditional tutorial methods than electronic ones which almost sits as a contradiction tp the number of them who thought it worthwhile. Perhaps we can deal with why this is the case later on.There are some significant contradictions within the activity system. About 72% of students reported what might be described as a contradiction between ‘Rules’ and ‘Division of Labour.’ Whilst supportive of the tool on the whole they felt far more was required of them in contributing to BBIM activities than face-to-face, particularly with being less advantaged and proficient in the tools use than the tutor. A further contradiction could be found between the ‘Object’ and ‘Tools’ element of the system. Most learners felt that the non-traditional method of tutorial communication meant they felt it difficult to retain what is being said or was said during IM interactions.
  • It is somewhat surprising that such a significant number of the respondents saw the tool favourably. Media Richness Theory (Trevino, Lengel and Daft, 1987) and Social Learning Theory (Short, Williams and Christie, 1976) propose that CMC should provide a decline in non-verbal and other interpersonal skills leading to a decline in the personal nature of the interaction. However, Garcia and Jacobs (1999) suggest that the structure of IM conversations (in terms of Conversation Analysis) is borrowed from face-to-face conversations with adjacent pairs like questions and answers, problem and remedy and is therefore not dissimilar to face-to-face interactions. The idea of the tool being multi-purpose and beneficial for this reason is evident in students identifying the concept and implementation of a ‘Community of Inquiry’ as a positive tool feature. Implications on practice from this finding included acknowledging the extent to which the tool could be used under self-direction of the learners. In practical terms, this led to several fundamental requirements and changes in personal practice. In the first instance, further professional conversations with the E-learning team (who are responsible for overseeing the tool) were engaged with in order to identify how the tool could be adapted for group use. Additionally, this led to the reconceptualization of the tools deployment with the group used in this research. Future deployment of the tool included further opportunities for the students to develop and engage in communities of Inquiry. Incorporated within this was the use of a wider set of embedded tools including the ‘Collaborate Suite’ which allowed learners to communicate synchronously and interact with learning objects in real time. Finally, a training event for staff examining the use of BBIM within the School of Community and Education was organised in September 2011 with the intention of this becoming a rolling program with additional ‘show and tell’ and sharing of best practice events being organised each semester. This would require me to ensure that all future training events include opportunities to further explore student led and organised communities of Inquiry along with the use of the Collaborate Suite for group work and assessment opportunities.
  • Research findings included contradictions in the activity system between ‘Rules’ and ‘Division of Labour.’ The introduction of further tools (as proposed above with the ‘Collaborate Suite’) will likely exacerbate these contradictions. This will be addressed in the redeployment of the tool through the provision of anytime access screencast tutorials made available to learners on UCB online . This will serve several purposes. In the first instance, students will have access to a library of short video resources which will ‘troubleshoot’ issues relating to the use of the tool reducing anxiety levels and equalising the void between ‘rules’ and ‘divisions of labour.’ Secondly, the anytime, anywhere access to this tool allows opportunities for learners and staff to revisit screencast tutorials to consolidate existing knowledge and build new knowledge. Implications on practice here included the need to gain access to, and have training on the use of, specialist software which would allow me to develop these learning and teaching tools . A further contradiction within the activity system was between the ‘Object’ and ‘Tools’ elements. Students were concerned that they were unable to retain what was said during online tutorials. This contradiction has highlighted an area for improvement in personal practice. It is of vital importance that we as practitioners avoid assuming that learners will have knowledge of the use of all aspects of the tool.
  • The tool will be used further with both this group and others and future deployment of this tool will include a series of screencasts and/or face-to-face tutorials showing the student cohort how to save and archive (to a single location) both individual and group discussions.Plans to push the software out to a wider variety of learners across the other 4 school discipline areasThere are plans to use Blackboard Collaborate Instant Messenger along side Collaborate Web Conferencing to support overseas dissertation students – A pilot of this is currently underway this semesterIntroduction of Blackboard Mobile Learn in December 2012, has given rise to students engaging in course content via smart devicesAim to revise/refocus the use of the Collaborate tools within a mobile context

Transcript

  • 1. Help I NeedSomebody!A study into the effectiveness of Instant Messaging fortutorial and pastoral supportBy Dominic Gore and Matthew NorthallUniversity College BirminghamTuesday 9th April 2013
  • 2. C_M_U_E__E_I_T_DC_M_U_I_A_I_N1 2 3 40% 0%0%0%1.I X V I D M U X X O A P M X2.E M G X V I T T R A I U L C3.E O X B C M A B Q Z A P O C4.R M C T A N O T O P M O E DA little fun before webegin... Can you guess theword?
  • 3. 3Presentation Contents• Project Timeline – Pre and Post 2011• Why CMC? – A Conceptual Framework and theTechnology• How it was implemented – TheoreticalUnderpinning• Methodology and Evidence – How the data wasgathered and Analysed• Impact on Learning – Student Feedback andEngagement• Future Development and Next Steps
  • 4. Project Timeline -Pre and Post 2011
  • 5. 5• UCB invested in what was the Wimba Suite of tools in December 2009.• The Blackboard Collaborate Instant Messenger Research project wasinitialised following the identification of a need to adapt to changing avenues tocommunication within Higher Education.• The initial pilot commenced in February 2010, however further iterations anddevelopments have paved the way for more in-depth usage of the toolfocussing primarily on this research to date• The tool was initially rolled out to students and staff in the School of Educationand Community• It was intended to be used as a pastoral teaching and learning tool.Pre - 2011
  • 6. 6• HE and FE students undertaking courses often come with a wide variety ofbackgrounds, often have diverse professional and personal experiences, andregularly arrive with an array of additional commitments outside of theeducational process.• It was agreed that the use of Computer Mediated Communication and morespecifically Instant Messaging could be the most convenient method ofaddressing this array of communication requirements• Allows opportunities to communicate in non-conventional modes and alsopresent methods to overcome the limitations presented by timeconstraints, distance and/or geographical barriers.
  • 7. 7• BA (Hons) Education and ICT group• 22 students progressing from the FdA Education and ICT Programme• BA „top-up‟ being completed in 3 semesters instead of 4 so need toprovide a module taught solely online• Original Teaching and Learning Online module has beenreconceptualised from a blended learning to a „learn anytime‟ onlinemodule• Blackboard Collaborate Instant Messenger was used predominately astime constraints and other factors forced the 22 students to receiveboth academic and pastoral support online.Post - 2011
  • 8. Why CMC? -A Conceptual Frameworkand the Technology
  • 9. 9ExistingConventionalCommunicationpathwaysExisting Un-conventionalCommunicationpathwaysTutorialSupportStudent Academic andPastoral tutorialrequirementsSocial InfluenceonCommunicationComputer/UnconventionalCommunicationAnxietyExpectationsEmergent fromCommunicationsIntention toParticipateConceptual Model
  • 10. 10Blackboard Collaborate InstantMessenger – The Technology• Provided a medium to experiment/research the effectivenessof CMC for tutorial support• UCB has already invested in Blackboard Collaborate, so thetool was already available for deployment• Provided a medium to ensure educational directives were met• Integrated into existing systems i.e. UCB Online (BlackboardLearn)• Staff and student development was in place to ensureeffective usage and monitoring• Group, individual and Office Hours used to conduct academicand pastoral support• No need to utilise 3rd party applications such as MicrosoftLync, Facebook Messenger etc.
  • 11. How it wasImplemented –A Theoretical Underpinning
  • 12. 12Hybrid Theoretical Framework1234 5
  • 13. Methodology andEvidence –How the data was gatheredand analysed
  • 14. 14• Methodological design underpinned by critical analysis offrameworks, readings and researcher‟s positionality. Sultana(2007)• Triangulation in the form of structure interviews and structuredquestionnaires• Corbetta (2003) suggests “structured interviews are interviewsin which each respondent is asked the same questions, usingthe same structure and the same wording”• Parity between the 2 sets of data collection methods Schafferand Kipp (2009)• Tools pre-coded. Pre-coding has been described as a method„…of conceptualizing research data and classifying them intorelevant and purposeful categories for the purpose of dataanalysis and interpretation‟ (Singh, 2007).• First and second level data analysis undertaken.
  • 15. 15Preliminary Empirical Evidence• 91% of the group (20) described themselves as „highly efficient‟ in the use of ICT• 81% (16) were of the belief that the BBIM tool had multiple-benefits• Over 60% of students organised or contributed towards online „self-help‟ sessionsand reported positively upon these experiences• About 86% (19) of the students identified social influence as a key factor in theirbehavioural usage intention• Over 95% (21) highlighted that the academic centric nature of the tool made iteasy to use
  • 16. 16• Up to 50% of the students (from a cohort of mature P/Tlearners) identified that they would prefer traditional tutorialmethods than electronic ones• About 72% of students reported what might be described as acontradiction between „Rules‟ and „Division of Labour.‟• A contradiction could be found between the „Object‟ and „Tools‟element of the systemHowever and somewhat contradictory…
  • 17. Can you suggest any reasons as to whystudents have mixed attitude towardsCMC?1 2 3 425% 25%25%25%1. Prefer theinteraction ofspeaking f2f2. Apprehensive withthe technology3. Prefer a multi-model approach4. Other – (If selected pleasedocument via post-it notes)
  • 18. 18Analysis, Revisions toTool, Deployment and Implications forPractice• It is somewhat surprising that such a significant number of the respondents sawthe tool favourably?• The structure of IM conversations (in terms of Conversation Analysis) is borrowedfrom face-to-face conversations with adjacent pairs like questions and answers.• Reviewed in accordance with E-Learning to focus on group work• Development by the students forming „Communities of Inquiry‟• Use of a wider set of embedded tools including the „Collaborate Suite‟ whichallowed learners to communicate synchronously and interact with learning objectsin real time• Training event for staff organised in September 2011; intention to become „rollingprogram‟
  • 19. 19• Research findings included contradictions in the activity system between „Rules‟ and„Division of Labour.‟• Anytime screencast tutorials will be made available to learners to help overcomecontradictions and barriers• Aid in troubleshooting and reducing of initial anxiety and allow for revision andconsolidation of existing knowledge
  • 20. 20• A further contradiction within the activity system was between the „Object‟and „Tools‟ elements• Students were concerned that they were unable to retain what was saidduring online tutorials• It is of vital importance that we as practitioners avoid assuming thatlearners will have knowledge of the use of all aspects of the tool
  • 21. Impact onLearning –Student Feedback andEngagement
  • 22. 22• Demonstration of the Blackboard CollaborateIM tool for personal tutorials.• Student studying on the BA (Hons) Educationand ICT programmeThe Student Voice
  • 23. FutureDevelopments –Next Steps
  • 24. 24• Further use of the tool is planned with current cohort of students and alsonew program areas• Future deployment will include a series of screencasts and/or face-to-facetutorials showing how to correctly utilise all aspects of the Bb IM tool• Plans to push the software out to a wider variety of learners across the other4 school discipline areas• There are plans to use Blackboard Collaborate Instant Messenger alongside Collaborate Web Conferencing to support overseas dissertationstudents – A pilot of this is currently underway this semester• Introduction of Blackboard Mobile Learn in December 2012, has given riseto students engaging in course content via smart devices• Aim to revise/refocus the use of the Collaborate tools within a mobile context
  • 25. Contact UsDominic Gore(email: d.gore@ucb.ac.uk)Matthew Northall(email: m.northall@ucb.ac.uk)