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Producing Employable Graduates


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G.N. Wikramanayake (2003) Producing Employable Graduates Computer Society University of Colombo

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Producing Employable Graduates

  1. 1. Producing Employable Graduates educational reforms that took placed were a result of this. Application of theories and acquiring problem G.N. Wikramanayake solving skills are becoming part of modern learning process. Head/Dept. of Information Systems Engineering University of Colombo School of Computing In the field of IT the technology is changing fast and the employees have been forced to retrain their staff on E-mail: regular basis. New recruitments are also trained to enable them to adapt to the organisation’s needs. 1.0 INTRODUCTION Students produced through the traditional classroom approach would take a longer period to adjust to a Traditionally format for the transmission of knowledge working environment than those trained under the is in the form of lecturing in the classroom. In this modern learning process. The trained graduates are approach the teacher or lecturer is responsible in more suited to fit into employment and are able to providing the knowledge to its listeners. secure higher remuneration than the untrained Lecturing alone is not suited for learning applications, graduates. Hence most companies have faced the analysis and synthesis as well as for complex, detailed problem of loosing their trained staff unless they are or abstract material. Other form of learning methods well looked after. The introduction of modern teaching such as practical sessions, group work, tutorial classes, methods should help to address this problem and take home activities has to be used in these situations. eliminate the need to train graduates prior to employment. Teacher dictating notes or students copying notes from the board has become part of most lecture sessions. In 2.0 LEARNING PROCESS some cases printed handouts have replaced this and have given the lecturer additional time to practice The learning process itself has been well defined different teaching methods. Notes had become an through the Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational goals important part of a lecture due to the need to sit for [1]. It is some thing that all teachers should be aware of exams and as a source of future reference. as well as practice. Bloom has defined six question categories, namely: knowledge, comprehension, Limited access to published material and the high cost application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. of textbooks have been a bottleneck. Hence the teachers are unable to expect the student to gather own When looking at the Bloom’s Taxonomy one important knowledge and as a result the student learning process item when developing content is the identification of has been centred on lecture notes. This means the learning objectives. It should be measurable and not knowledge testing mechanisms or exams are also based vague. The content should be identified to achieve the on the teacher’s lecture notes. Due to this the exam learning objectives. Otherwise learning objectives are papers have focused on testing student’s knowledge on based on the content supplied. Then the teaching theories, proofs and concepts that are already available process and the testing mechanism deviates from the in their lecture notes. process that should have been used to achieve some of the goals of a course. Over a long period of time the classroom teaching approach has gradually prevented the student in When we look at the abilities of a person after stimulating ideas and actively participating in the achieving the objectives of a module the content based learning process. Also the students have been lacking objectives approach would focus on theoretical the problem solving skills, i.e. to apply the knowledge knowledge and application skills although the topic gained into real world situations. These skills cannot be objectives and the brief syllabus didn’t intended to do acquired though lecturing alone. so. With the introduction of cheap Indian textbooks along Next we would identify the learning objectives before with easy and cheaper duplicating facilities the access content. When we adopt this process we are in a to printed material is not a barrier as in the past. The position to highlight the importance of application World Wide Web and the Internet have provided every skills. Here we would have one main objective body the opportunity to publish as well as to access any accompanied by about 6-7 detailed learning objectives. material of their choice. Hence we can find a wide Also each objective is measurable and is of the type “to variety of study material on the web. Thus it is no be able to design and develop” and not of the type longer necessary to limit student’s knowledge to “understanding” etc. Bloom’s Taxonomy is an ideal lecture notes. More importantly the students have many source to learn how to prepare the learning objectives. sources to acquire knowledge and using e-learning sites When comparing the two approaches we see that they they are able to learn at their own pace. are different. The importance here is the identification The need to change the teacher’s role from lecturing to of essential topics to achieve the main objective and activity based and student learning from passive to ignoring the nice to know content. Certainly the active has already being realised. The recent awareness of the nice to know content should be there
  2. 2. but it can be in the form of being able to refer to them After developing the learning outcomes we need to as and when needed. determine the method of measurement, presentation and assessment method. At UWS a handbook is The application skills acquired through this process prepared for each module by the module coordinator. It will allow the student in performing design and describes the above items. You will find many development activities on real world problems. Such a handbooks from the UWS web site [2]. student is in a position to fit into an organisation without further training. However a person who At UWS there is a policy that all modules must have a learned the content under the first approach would minimum 40% for continuos assessment. So the final need to be further trained, as the focus had been more year exam is at most 60%. There are modules without a on theory. final exam. The lecturer decides the structure of the exam papers. There is no rigid rubric as in many other 3.0 A CASE STUDY cases. This gives the flexibility to include long and University of Western Sydney (UWS) is one of the short questions with different mark allocations. This is pioneers in adopting e-learning into their education needed for case studies and various application testing. system. Due to the early introduction of e-learning at The importance here is application skills are acquired UWS, the UWS has been able to identify the needs to through practical, tutorial, group/individual work, change the traditional teaching and learning processes. presentations and discussions. They are tested and In fact they are practising most of these changes and evaluated through continuos assessments. the impact of them can be seen from the performance of the students after graduation as they are no longer 4.0 CONCLUSIONS need to be further trained to commence employment. Teaching and learning have changed with the use of UWS has focus on student’s being able to solve technology. E-learning environment together with problems using current technology and related issues. tutorial and practical classes facilitates the learning Identification of module content based on learning process. The teachers have been able to focus on objectives has helped to achieve this task. In addition activity-based learning due to the presence of learning to this we need to do few more things before/after material over the Internet. Here we have highlighted developing the learning objectives for course modules. the importance of identifying learning objects, assessment methods and training to apply the learning In the case of undergraduates, we must first identify the outcomes. The changes have provided opportunities for aims of producing the graduates. This will be done cooperative learning. Teachers now spend less time in with the consultation with the industry, academics and front of the class and more time working with small professional bodies. Also, in addition to the subject groups of individuals. The learning process is activity knowledge the graduate should have the skills on based and focuses on group and individual work with communication, group work and content. The next step presentations and discussions. These changes should be is to allocate the knowledge and skills identified to the considered as a strategy to implement e-learning respective program structures. This will help to systems. determine the modules/subjects for each program. An example of this identification process can The changes in teaching and learning styles have be found in [3]. transformed course evaluations from testing of knowledge to application of knowledge. This in turn We should look at the learning outcomes only after has eliminated the need to further train the raw determine the modules. Before developing the learning graduates. Finally this will serve the industry need of outcomes the UWS has done another important being able to directly employ people who can do things activity. They identified sub-discipline groups and and the degree certificate will become just an entry members to develop the learning outcomes. These qualification for the job interview. groups can be informal but ideally linked to the research groups. Some academics may be in multiple groups. Linking sub-discipline groups to research 6.0 REFERENCES groups means that the members can teach subjects 1) Bloom’s Taxonomy - a website. related to their research interest. This has given the academics the opportunity to apply or perform their c.html [March 01st, 2003] research as part of teaching. 2) University of Western Sydney website. As the modules/subjects are allocated to the sub- [March 01st, 2003] discipline groups the learning outcomes are first prepared for each sub-discipline group and then only 3) Wikramanayake G.N., "e-Learning: Changes in for the modules. This process will identify the need to Teaching and Learning Styles", Proceedings of have each of the modules identified for respective 22nd National IT Conference, Colombo, Sri programs. Through this process core and optional Lanka, 03rd-04th July 2003, pp. 118-124. modules can also be identified.