Editor’s Note: Distance learning requires careful planning to maximize learning opportunities. When learning materials are consolidated into reusable interactive multimedia formats, the role of the teacher changes from lecturing to tutoring to emphasize guidance and course development.
Developing a Computer-Based Instructional Material Model
for Teacher Training at Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU)
The Government of Pakistan established Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) under the act of Parliament number XXXIX, passed by the National Assembly (equivalent to the American Congress) in May 1974. The distance learning system is one of the most important developments in the field of education and Allama Iqbal Open University is one of the leading open universities in the world. Allama Iqbal Open University provides support for the educational needs of the masses through its distance learning system. Allama Iqbal Open University has many regional offices and more than 1000 study centers throughout the country. Allama Iqbal Open University offers more than 200 programs from High School diploma (equivalent to GED in US) to PhD (Dr. Rashid, 2007).
According to DR. Rashid (2007),
“The Allama Iqbal Open University is employing multi-dimensional methodology suited to distance education. Textbooks and other reading material are written and developed by the Faculties and outside experts and provided to the students after enrollment. Local experts are appointed as tutors for the groups of students for the purpose of continuous guidance. Tutors help students write assignments. Workshops are organized towards the end of the semester where distance education students get an opportunity for internship and practical training.”
No courses have been developed at any level that use computers for instruction. At the masters level only one class was offered in which students were briefly exposed to computer technology. “In today’s world of technology it is important that all the courses are modified in order to incorporate computer technology.” (Abate, RJ. 2002)
The primary goal of this study was to examine optimal uses of computers and educational software. Since computers are becoming ubiquitous in both classrooms and work settings, the ability to use them as tools for learning and academic achievement is increasingly important for both teachers and students.
“Unfortunately, in most of the countries of third world, practitioners often do not use computers effectively to support instruction. They are often used in homes and in schools in ways that isolate children, locking them into drill and practice programs devoid of human interaction” (Rasid, 2007).
Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) tutorials are characterized by drill and practice activities that are essentially electronic worksheets to deliver instruction directly to students without interaction with teachers. Such one-dimensional experiences with computers conflict with research findings that document the importance of social interaction in education. Few studies have shown how to integrate computers into socio-cultural contexts of classrooms in interactive ways that support students’ educational development. To date, the field of educational technology has been hindered by a research tradition that is often narrowly focused on techno-centric accounts of how the technology itself functions, while paying little attention to learners or the social environments in which learning takes place.
According to Artz J (2001),
“A child's education takes place primarily at home in a family setting with a parent acting as a teacher or supervisor of the learning activity. Some observers claim that the computer has created many home-based jobs and enabled teachers to practice computer and earn money at home with online resources. Some speculated that the same technology that opens up new horizon for enjoyment can also greatly facilitate learning about computers and receiving teacher training by computer at home.”
Some supporters of computer technology predict that most learning might soon take place in the way many teachers learn on the computer or out in the community, but not in a classroom. Their experiences can help us to understand the present and potential role of educational technology in non-traditional education settings.
“Though numerous studies have been conducted to investigate how the computer is being used in public schools or formal institutions for the past decades, computer use in teacher training through distance education remains an area that is rarely studied.” (Rasid, 2007).
For example, teacher preparation has little training about computer use, why to purchase computers, and what a learner hopes to achieve with this technology. Likewise, there is no research data on how distance education teacher training institutions integrate the computer into their daily instruction. There have been magazines and newspaper articles reporting numerous online resources for use by teachers. These articles list web pages of Distance Education Teacher Training Organizations. These web sites are designed especially for the teachers, online bulletin boards, memos, letters, and online courses, geared towards teacher training particularly in western world. Other information, primarily from newspaper articles, consists of claims or personal opinion about how the computer is being used or might be used in teacher training in the future. These articles do not provide clear information about sources of information, how the information was collected, and what kinds of institutions were investigated. Almost none of the reports published in this area involved system research. Often, conclusions were drawn from personal impressions rather than from research data. A lack of research data on why and how computers are used in teacher training through distance education prompted the researcher to design this study to gather preliminary date from field research.
Several researchers in the field of educational technology relate computer use to the surrounding social context. Researchers in developed countries report that technology rich Distance Education institutions in the west provide teacher training with one-on-one instruction and flexibility to integrate learning with daily living.
Some researchers have recognized the impact of social expectations on computer use. They believe that focusing solely on what the computer can offer and people's behavior towards the computer is sufficient to understand the nature of computer use (Baker, M. 2003). They advocate a social approach to analyze computer use in the context of traditional education rather than focusing on the capabilities of the technology.
“Distance education students need to recognize that computers systems are ‘complex’ social objects constrained by the context infrastructure and history. A particular combination of hardware and software may be utilized in very different ways in different contexts with very different results.” (D’Ignazio, F. 2003)
In analyzing computers used in distance education contexts, modern researchers found that the amount and type of computer utilization in distance education is related to how students, instructors or other administrators perceive computers, and what role they play in computer use. Teachers tend to judge the usefulness of the computer by how computers would fit into their on-going classroom practices and the already established curriculum. Following the syllabus and covering the required materials were regarded by teachers to be their primary responsibility. New technology and innovative teaching, which directly address course elements in the existing syllabus, are more likely to attract the interest and cooperation of teacher.
In general, teachers' major concerns about computer use in the classroom were the level of difficulty of the software, the precise subject materials covered, and the way the software meshed with their textbooks.
In one study conducted by Lui et al (2002), teachers mentioned that their goals for using the computer in the classroom were to prepare the students to live in a world of advanced technology. This attitude was shared by administrators in the districts, which resulted in more attention paid to acquisition and required use of computer hardware than to the design, development and support of educational applications of computers. Furthermore, a teacher's inability to realize the potential contribution of the computer in classroom teaching hampers computer integration.
A study conducted in the third world Chan and Van (2004) found several teachers that did not know any educational software that they believed could significantly improve their instruction. Other teachers were interested in educational software but felt they could not introduce the new technology into their teaching and still cover the required curriculum.
“As teachers vary in their educational beliefs, their teaching styles, their policies regarding curriculum, they adopt different approaches to educational computing in a distance education setting. Therefore, it is important to study teacher's existing attitudes and pedagogy, which can enable them to better understand their acceptance to the computer, their style of implementation and the outcome of their computer use in distance education classrooms” Smith, Houston and Robin (2004).
In developed countries, new techniques, skills, and tools for teaching are being tested and applied at all levels within distance education institutions. The hope is that computer use will help revolutionize the distance educational system and set patterns that will have a positive long-term influence on the further development of education. In less developed countries, distance education institutions are far from using computers as instructional material in teacher training classrooms (Rashid, 2007).
Recent developments in the field of computers, both hardware and software, are extending their influence in the world and in education. Researchers like Wills (2001) consider invention of the computer as to be of even greater significance and consequence to humanity than the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century. In developed countries, use of computers in post-secondary education is quite varied. They are widely used for instruction, for example, in medical science, where students practice diagnosis and prescription on a large number of patients simulated by a computer program. Educators should be concerned with computers and ways to use them for teaching and learning. Computers are successfully used in many disciplines in developed countries. In less developed countries there is even greater need for computers. Computers are an instructional tool to enhance leaning and understanding of knowledge.
This study was conducted to develop a computer instructional material model for teacher training at AIOU. Specifically, it was designed to explore role of computers for instruction in teacher-training programmes, use of computers for instruction by instructors/tutors, and to develop a computer-based instructional material model for teacher-training programmes at AIOU.
Nine hypotheses were formulated for this study:
Ho1: In Pakistan, teacher training students who use computers as instructional material show better understanding of concepts than students who do not learn from computers.
Ho2: There is no significance difference between the performance of students who use modified books according to use of computer as instructional material and those who used textbooks not modified for computer use as instructional material
Ho3: There is no significant difference between the academic achievements of the students who are using computer as instructional material in teacher training classes in comparison with those who are not.
Ho4: Students of teacher training program of AIOU, who are teachers themselves in different institutions, do not use computers in the classrooms where they teach.
Ho5: Most of the students of teacher training programs of Allama Iqbal Open university Islamabad do not know how to use email in order to contact the university.
Ho6: Most of the students of teacher training programs of Allama Iqbal Open university Islamabad are not computer literate.
Ho7: Tutors and Instructors do not use computers as an instructional tool to present material to students of teacher training programs of Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad
Ho8: Most of the students of teacher training programs of Allama Iqbal Open university Islamabad do not use Internet for research and study
Ho9: Most of the students of teacher training programs of Allama Iqbal Open university Islamabad are not familiar with any software such as MS word, Power Point or MS Excel.
Population and Sample Size
The total population for the study was comprised of 2000 students of teacher-training programme of AIOU, 15 academicians and administrative staff of education faculty of AIOU Islamabad and 20 tutors and resource persons.
Tools of Research:
The researchers prepared questionnaire containing open-ended questions and restricted answers. The questionnaire for student comprised of demographic questions, 54 close-ended questions and 8 open ended questions. The questionnaires for academicians, tutors/instructors had both open-ended and closed-ended questions in order to find out their opinions. In all these questionnaires mostly questions were asked about the use of computers as an instructional material in teacher-training classrooms. Expert opinion was taken into consideration for preparation and validation of questionnaire.
Researcher conducted a pilot study at Faculty of Education of AIOU in the months of August and September during the year 2005. The sample of pilot study was 84 students, five academicians, five tutors and two instructors. Researcher also discussed the questionnaires with staff of faculty of education and other researchers personally. Pilot study was conducted to revise questionnaires and to see how effective the questionnaires were. Sample was asked not to solve the questionnaires, but to read these for language improvements and to see effectiveness of the questionnaires. Questionnaires had been revised and the language had been improved according to the suggestions of the respondents. The number of questions has been reduced to 54 from 81. Language of certain questions has been improved. Similar improvements were done in other questionnaires.
Questionnaires were validated for the present study by authentic sources, colleagues and by the staff and faculty of the education department of Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad. Questionnaires were sent to 23 different individuals who have extensive experience in educational research. Very few changes have been made in the in the light of their opinion.
The final study was conducted during early summer of 2007. The population for the final study consisted of all the students, staff, supporting staff and faculty members of the Departments of DNFE (Distance and Non-Formal Education) and Teacher Education of the Faculty of Education Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad.
From the population a proportionate sample was selected by using simple random sampling technique. The population for the study consisted of students, who completed a Distance Education and Teacher training course through the Faculty of Education AIOU Islamabad for the semesters Fall 2005 and spring 2006.
Tools of Research for Final Study
In this study researcher used three different questionnaires, one for students, second for tutors/instructors and third for academicians. The questionnaire for students administered in this study had demographic part that followed by items grouped according to the categories like, instruction, computer knowledge, and the use of computer knowledge for classrooms of the teachers training colleges. The grouping of similar items was suggested as the most appropriate and effective form for use with the survey questionnaire. This facilitates the respondent to maintain a single train of thought (Mental use) and to provide well thought out answers.
The students were asked to respond to each item using the 5-choice Likert-type scale. The possible responses were strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, and strongly disagree. Each of the response categories was assigned a numeric value. A response which indicated the highest positive response (strongly agree) was symbolized by a “5” and a response, which indicated the greatest negative response which was indicated with a response of “1.” The third section of the student questionnaire had 10 open ended questions.
Second questionnaire was developed for academicians. This questionnaire contains 12 closed-ended and 8- open-ended items. Percentile ranks and scores were applied on this questionnaire.
The third tool was a questionnaire for the tutors and instructor (resource persons). Researcher used same tool for both instructors and tutors because the nature of their job was same and most of the instructors were also working as tutors. This tool contained three parts also. Part one had demographic questions and part two consisted of about instruction and planning. That part of the questionnaires had closed-ended questions. Part three contained a few open-ended items and deals with tutoring.
The questionnaires were coded in the upper left-hand corner on the front of the first page. This coding device allowed for respondent to be identified in order that follow-up mailing to those who did not return the questionnaire. All the questionnaires were anonymous.
A reminder postcard that encourages non-respondent to respond to the survey followed the initial mailing. This reminder was mailed August of 2007. The amount of time between the initial mailing and the mailing of the post card was lengthy in order to allow for the possible complications with the seasonal abundance of mail. Mailing of a second copy of the questionnaire followed the reminder postcard to respondents who so requested. The number of initial respondent was 539.
The initial mailing resulted in a return of 371 questionnaires prior to August 01, 2007. Following the reminder postcard mailed to non-respondents, 11 questionnaires were received by August 31, 2007. After this no additional questionnaires were included in the study.
Data Analysis was performed in several phases. This first phase comprised descriptive over view of the demographic data. The next phase included factor analysis to identify composite variable to represent the many charters of significantly interrelated independent variables. The resulting composite variables were then used into the final phase utilizing ANOVA and p-value. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) was applied in order to examine bivariate relationships and determine whether or not these relationships are significant.
The basic dependent variables of the study were student access to computer as an instructional material, computer training, understanding of educational software, instruction style of the instructor/tutor and how comfortable they were with the model. The questionnaire items were subjected to factor analysis designed to determine the principal components. This purpose of factor analysis is to discover simple patterns in the pattern relationships among the variables. In particular it seeks to discover if the observed variables can be explained largely or entirely in terms of a much smaller number of variables called factors.
The basic dependent variables in this study were considered both as represented by the questionnaire and as composite variable after it was shown to have no interaction effect with any of the other independent variables. Some researchers indicated age as a variable, which contributes to the difference in learning between traditional college age students and adult students. No other demographic variables were considered in terms of their interaction effects with other independent variables.
Tabulation was conducted by making a master sheet on a spreadsheet of MS SPSS (statistical Program of Social Sciences). A numeric value was assigned to each response. All responses were defined and were given a label. Two different statistical tests were applied, ANOVA and P- Value.
Results and Discussion
This study was designed to make a computer based instructional material model for the teacher training classes of Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad.
First part of the student questionnaire had demographic information. All the questionnaires were anonymous. The sample’s age group was between 20-39 years of age. More females responded to the questionnaires than males. Sample was highly qualified mostly having either a bachelor or master degree in education. The teaching experience range was 5 years to 16 or more years. Majority had the computers in the offices they worked but none had the computers in the classrooms. Many of the respondents had computer literacy experience and they were those who took the computer literacy class at Allama Iqbal Open University. Some of the respondents also accepted having a computer at their homes.
The second part of the questionnaire had Likert type scale. P-value and ANOVA were applied in order to get the results for discussion
In open-ended question section respondents agreed that Teacher Training Program of AIOU is far behind in the use of computer generally and as instructional material particularly as compared to the developed countries. They feel that there should be more training available to future teachers to learn to use computers to present instructional material in their own classrooms. They feel that this is the age of technology and involvement of computers in the classrooms is a necessity for future progress. They agreed that at office level AIOU Islamabad have computers and they are widely in use but none of the classrooms have computers in them. Even the main library does not have computers available to students. Tutors and instructors should have their own web sites and email addresses available to students. At this moment correspondence is through mail only and none of the instructors or tutors have a web site although Allama Iqbal Open University has its own web site. The respondents feel that Allama Iqbal Open University is a distance education institution and must use a computer based instructional material model for teacher training classes and also for other classes. Some teachers who live in remote area of the country and this may be the only opportunity to learn and use computers.
Two other questionnaires were used in order to find the expert opinion of the tutors, instructors and academicians. Their responses were in agreement with student’s responses. Some of the academicians had foreign training and education. They are familiar with the advancement and use of computers in the present classrooms of developed countries. Some of them have visited British Open University and other open universities of the world and accept that Allama Iqbal Open University is much behind in the use of computer to present instruction in teacher training programs. They agreed that there is a need for total change in the system and the use of email, web sites, and CD ROMs could eventually reduce the cost. At this moment, the university spends millions of Rupees (thousands of Dollars in US) in mailing text materials to the students. A significant volume of these do not reach the destination or arrive damaged. On the other hand, materials on CD ROM can be developed cheaper and faster and mailed to students at less expense. That may reduce the overall expenditure of the university. The remainder of responses to the questions were in complete agreement with responses of students discussed earlier.
The experts and the faculty confirmed that they did not have email addresses or web sites themselves and were not comfortable with the use of technology. Their contact with the students was through mail only and they not use computers to present instructional materials in their classrooms. They also did not require students to use technology for research or assignments.
The first hypothesis proved to be true – respondents demonstrated better learning and better grades in AIOU teacher training classes that used computer to present instructional materials.
The second hypothesis proved to be false – there was a significant difference in the performance between students who used modified textbooks.
The third hypothesis proved to be false – academic achievement was better in the course the respondents took that used computers than the others.
The fourth hypothesis proved to be true – most respondents do not use email to contact either tutor or the university. Also, most teacher training students at AIOU Islamabad do not use computers in the classrooms where they teach.
The fifth hypothesis proved to be true – most students of teacher training programs of AIOU Islamabad do not use email in order to contact university.
The sixth hypothesis proved to be true – most students of teacher training programs of AIOU Islamabad are not computer literate.
The seventh hypothesis proved to be true – most tutors and instructors of teacher training programs of AIOU Islamabad do not use computer to present instruction during workshops
The eighth hypothesis proved to be true – most students of teacher training programs of AIOU Islamabad did not know how to use the Internet to conduct research or find information on line.
The ninth hypothesis proved to be true – most of the students of teacher training programs of AIOU Islamabad were not familiar with software like MS Words, PowerPoint and Excel.
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About the Author
Tanvir Malik is an educator with 18 years of experience. Currently he teaches at the Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad, Pakistan. He has an MS from University of the Punjab, Lahore Pakistan, MA in Education from IER an affiliate of University of Indiana in Pakistan, MA in special Education from University of New Mexico, and a Master in Philosophy in Distance Education from Allama Iqbal Open university Islamabad.