Is It Fully ‘On’ or Partly ‘Off’? The Case of Fully-Online Provision of Transnational Education
Iwona Miliszewska, Victoria University, Australia
JITE-Research Volume 6, Number 1, ISSN 1539-3585 Publisher: Informing Science Institute
With the rapid expansion of the transnational education market, more and more universities join the ranks of transnational education providers or expand their transnational education offerings. Many of those providers regard fully-online provision of their programs as an economic alternative to face-to-face teaching. Do transnational students accept this model as a viable and effective educational alternative? A recent research study investigated students’ attitudes towards fully-online provision of computing education programs in one of the most important Australian transnational education markets: Hong Kong. Of interest were students’ perceptions about the suitability of fully-online mode of teaching and learning with respect to computing studies, and their views on the importance of face-to-face interaction in their programs. Students from three transnational computing programs, offered in Hong Kong by Australian universities in co-operation with Hong Kong partners, participated in the study; the programs are delivered in face-to-face sessions and rely on the Internet for support and communication (unit Web sites, bulletin boards, email, etc.). The rationale behind the choice of locale and participants for the study was threefold: first, Hong Kong is one of the largest Australian transnational education markets (hence, the results of the study would be of importance); second, it is a well-developed territory where English is commonly spoken (hence, participants would not be biased towards online education because of lack of suitable technological infrastructure or inadequate linguistic skills); and thirdly, computing students were technology savvy and, therefore, would not be biased in their views of online education because of technophobia. Approximately three hundred students participated in the study, which was based on analysis of data collected though a survey and group interviews with students. Results from the survey revealed that students did not regard fully-online provision of transnational programs as a preferred alternative to the current model – that is one that is based on face-to-face communication and uses the Internet for support. Their opposition was pronounced and ranged from total rejection of fully-online provision in one of the programs (100% of students against the idea), to marginal support of fully-online provision from students in the other two programs (9% and 13% respectively). Students repeatedly stated the importance of face-to-face communication as the most important reason for preferring the current program model. The subsequent group interviews with students sought to explore further the reasons behind the students’ views. Students again responded in favor of the current model of the programs reiterating the importance of face-to-face interaction. They regarded face-to-face communication as more conducive to the learning process, affording better opportunity to sharing knowledge and asking for help, “easier” and more interactive, and more compatible with the needs of Hong Kong students. However, the respondents acknowledged the usefulness of the Internet as a means for providing course material, facilitating submission of assignments, and enabling communication with lecturers outside classes. The findings of the study endorse the current trends of Australian transnational education in South East Asia and support the prediction that Web-supported face-to-face delivery is likely to continue as a principal model of transnational tertiary education programs.
Miliszewska, I. (2007). Is It Fully ‘On’ or Partly ‘Off’? The Case of Fully-Online Provision of Transnational Education. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 6(1), 499-514. Informing Science Institute.
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