Abstract harnessing the internet for authentic learning


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An abstract for proposed paper to be submitted to ECEL 2011 conference to be held in Nov in Brighton, UK

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Abstract harnessing the internet for authentic learning

  1. 1. ECEL 2011 Abstract<br />Harnessing the Internet for Authentic Learning:<br />Towards a New Higher Education Paradigm for the 21st Century<br />Abel Nyamapfene<br />College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences<br />University of Exeter<br />Harrison Building, North Park Rd, Exeter, EX2 7PE, UK <br />a.nyamapfene@ex.ac.uk<br />Keywords: Authentic learning, critical thinking, the Internet, higher education learning and teaching<br />The Internet is threatening well established norms in higher education teaching and learning in fundamental and far reaching ways. Gone are the days of the transmission method of learning, as typified by the traditional lecture method, where information habitually flows from the lecturer to the students. Instead, with the advent of the Internet, students can now readily access information about virtually any subject at the click of a button. In fact, the acquisition of subject content is no longer an issue in higher education; rather the issue is now more on how to make sense of available information and how to choose between competing information sources in a limited amount of time. To manage in this environment, students now need to master the techniques of thinking critically, communicating effectively and solving real-life problems in real-time. <br />This paper discusses the use of authentic assessments in a second year undergraduate course in communication systems and networking to help students acquire relevant and up-to-date networking skills. In the authentic assessments presented in this paper, students solve real-life networking issues commonly faced by practising network specialists. The Internet is used as the primary source of information, and students are encouraged to form ad hoc teams to collaborate in gathering and analysing the available information. However, each student is required to separately submit an independently compiled individual report documenting the student’s solution to the problem. Turnitin, an anti-plagiarism software tool, is used to ensure that the report is the student’s own individual effort. A rubric based on a guide developed at the Washington State University is used to assess the student’s acquisition of critical thinking skills. <br />Preliminary findings suggest that students generally feel that these authentic assessments enable them to master skills that they cannot otherwise acquire in typical lecture-based studies. In addition, students report that through these authentic assessments they have managed to establish contacts within industry which they would not have otherwise established. Also, learning together in ad hoc teams has enabled classes to morph into effective communities of learning that facilitate learning in other subject modules as well. However, students generally find the authentic assessments to be heavy on workload when compared to traditional forms of assessment. Based on these authentic assessments, a framework for authentic learning using the Internet is proposed in this paper. This framework is evaluated through comparison with other frameworks that have been proposed for 21st century higher education learning and teaching. <br />