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HIGHER EDUCATION TEACHERS ASSESSMENT OF AN ELEARNING BASED TRAINING PROGRAM IN MEXICO

H. Sandoval Villa
Instituto Tecnolgico de la Zona Olmeca (MEXICO) hsandovalvilla@gmail.com

Abstract
Public Higher Education (HE) Institutions in Mxico have been trying to implement different approaches of e-learning as a way to deal with their main challenges (shrinking budgets, lack of universal access and a weak connection with the productive sector among others). The results of these efforts have been studied over the last years by an important number of researchers, however, most of this assessments have been focused either in comparing the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) against a traditional course or to analyze the attitudes towards the ICT in samples composed by students of the Universities. Last year the General Direction of Technological Education (DGEST in Spanish) invited some of the teachers working in Public Technological Institutes to an on line training program. The objective of this paper is to assess the teachers response to e-learning training, in order to achieve this goal a questionnaire was given to a sample of 50 teachers after finishing the course, most of the results were measured in a likert scale and analyzed with a chi square test. The obtained results show that participants were more willing to work in groups and cooperate, that the average amount of time dedicated to study the contents of the course was bigger than in traditional education, than the students found the course to be coherent and well organized and an overall opinion of the necessity to adapt the ICT in their courses. Nonetheless, results also show that they get tired sooner, that they consider the feedback and evaluation to be inadequate and that theyre not adopting the skills they learned to improve their performance, this last statement is even more notorious with the teaching staff that has more than ten years in the position. Keywords: e-learning, higher education, public education.

INTRODUCTION

For the last 10 years, the introduction of technologies of information and communication (ICT) in higher education (HE) has been a constant that has allowed a gradual technological habilitation of Mexican universities, and therefore has permitted the application of these technologies in educational programs. Researchers such as [1] Prez (2003), [2] Sangr and Gonzlez (2004) and [3] Argudn (2005) have considered the use of ICT in higher education as a way to improve the quality of their education programs, however, there is still a lot of resistance to integrate them to teaching practices and big contrasts are found even in a same institution. In the implementation of e-learning programs, HE institutions are demanding a change in the role of university lecturers. Traditional teaching and learning skills need to change in order to get maximum benefit from virtual learning, hence lecturers are posed with the task of developing a new model of effective teaching. If the provision of e-learning is to become a key element of university education, employers will need to provide a major program of staff development and training ([4] Copeland, 2001). Training and support is required to ensure that technology can be integrated into daily routines and that its use will be efficient and effective ([5] Wilson, 2001). Delivering staff development online is a good strategy to develop the skills and knowledge of online teachers. Several reasons provide the rationale for this approach: limitations of face to face, centralised, workshops ([6] Salter and Hansen, 2001); teachers taking control of their own professional development ([7] Stuckey et al, 2001); empowering the academic staff member to make connections with their own experience and knowledge ([8] Bennett et al 1999), putting the staff member in the

position of the online student ([9] Devonshire & Philip, 2001); increasing accessibility and enhanced opportunities for communication amongst staff, and decreasing the amount of face to face workshops ([10] Drysdale and Creanor, 1998); complementing traditional methods ([11] MacKenzie and Staley, 2000), providing opportunities for staff separated geographically to work collaboratively across the institution ([12] Kandlebinder, 2001). While some authors have evaluated the results of virtual learning in Mexican HE institutions, there is little information about the teachers opinion in regard of this matter, and most important, how fast they are adopting ICT.

OBJECTIVES

The objective of this paper is to assess, with the use of the evaluation model of teaching innovation (EMID in Spanish), the teachers response to e-learning training as well as the degree in which they incorporate ICT tools in their courses.

3 3.1

METHODOLOGY Participants

The General Direction of Technological Education (DGEST in Spanish) invited the teachers working in some of the 249 Technological Institutes it coordinates to sign up for a training program based on ICT about teaching competencies, participation was voluntary and the cost was absorbed by DGEST, the courses ran from June to December 2011, once the training program was finished a randomized sample of 50 professors was chosen among the participants which were asked to complete the EMID questionnaire. Teachers participating in the survey are distributed in eight technological institutes located in different regions of Mexico, There were some differences among participants in regard of their ability in the use of computers and the years of teaching experience, however, the samples was treated as a homogenous group given the fact that they all are HE professors and were willing to improve their teaching abilities.

3.2

Evaluation model

EMID was designed by [13] Bono et al (2004) as a way to measure students opinions about teaching techniques of methodological contents, for the purposes of assess teachers response to e-learning the EMID questionnaire was modified in a few items. The model is focused on evaluating five aspects of e-learning: personal data, students preparation, group collaboration, course material and degree of adoption of ICT tools. The questionnaire consist of 54 questions, most of them are measured on a 5 point likert scale which go from 1 (complete disagreement) to 5 (complete agreement). In the students preparation section the responses include time ranges to evaluate how many time participants dedicate to study the contents of the course. When asking about group collaboration and courses material frequency of use the measurement scale includes 5 values (from never to everyday). Course materials appreciation was measured according to how fast students got tired of them, so the response was divided in 5 intervals of 15 minutes. Results from the survey were analyzed with a chi-square test using Minitab 15

Table 1. Description of the EMID questionnaire sections. Section Personal data Description Ability to use the computers, previous e-learning experience, hours of work a week and internet availability.

Students preparation

Time dedicated to the study and comprehension of the course contents.

Group collaboration

Frequency and quality of the interaction with other participants and course moderators.

Course material

Frequency of use and degree of satisfaction with the learning acquired through the materials.

ICT tools adoption degree

Actual degree of ICT use in the teachers performance, most valued tools.

RESULTS

There is a strong opinion about the necessity to incorporate teaching strategies based on ICT 2 (1, N = 50) = 8, p = .005 among the participants of this study, nevertheless, this sample was taken from the professors who chose to study on line and, as stated before, they were a minority in all the collaborators institutions. Two of the aspects that were better perceived by the participants were the availability of teaching 2 material from all kinds of sources that otherwise were unreachable for them (1, N = 50) = 8, p = .005, and the easiness this model brings to the collaboration between colleagues across the institution 2 (1, N = 50) =0.392 , p =.048, something that is often regarded as one of our Institute main problems. Table 2. Teachers assessment of course materials and group work. Agree It is necessary to incorporate ICT in my courses E-learning has allowed me to work collaboratively across the institution E-learning provides teaching material otherwise unreachable 35 32
a

Disagree 15 18
b

35

15

An attractive and well organized learning environment is fundamental when learning on line; therefore professors were asked about these items, results in table 3 strongly indicate that the course was well 2 designed and coherent in its sequence (1, N = 50) = 20.48, p < .001, however, when asked how adequate were the evaluation methods of the learning process there was no significant difference in 2 the responses (1, N = 50) = 1.28, p = .258, this result can be explained for the lack of face to face interaction with the course facilitator, many professors expressed their frustration for not being able to broadly discuss their grades as they do with their students when teaching their courses.

Table 3. Teachers assessment of course design and evaluation methods. Agree The course is coherent and well organized Evaluation methods are adequate 41 29
a

Disagree 9
b

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One of the main objectives of the research was to find out if the skills learned in the training program were applied in the everyday work of the teaching staff; the results shown in table 1 indicate that the 2 professors are not immediately adopting the ICT skills they learned (1, N = 50) = 0.08, p = .76., this trend is particularly obvious in teachers that have been working for more than 10 years as anyone from this subgroup is using any new teaching skill not even for complementing traditional methods as stated by [11] Mackenzie and Staley (2000). [14] Sandoval (2010) reported a 67% adoption degree of ICT learning tools among high education students during a statistics course, in that study, lack of internet access in some communities was the main reason for not adopting ICT techniques, 96% of the teachers involved in the present research have internet at home. In spite of the positive opinions about the learning model and the necessity of developing this strategies in their courses, there was no difference between the teachers who intend to keep on 2 studying on line and those who dont (1, N = 50) =0.72, p = .396, this is an striking result given the fact that among faculty members these are the most willing to adopt ICT teaching techniques. It is important to notice that most of the professors who dont intend to take another course are the ones who currently work more than 40 hours a week. Table 4. Teachers adoptation of ICT tools as a result of the training program Before Number of teachers using ICT tools Number of teachers using traditional skills I intend to take another E-learning based course 6
a

After 7 43
a

44 28

22

Results from a previous research ([14] Sandoval 2010) has shown that HE students are willing to adopt ICT tools in their education, the use of podcasts to study the contents of a statistics course was the most successful learning tool in this study, nevertheless, the opposite is discovered when the teaching staff is evaluated. The number of lecturers who embraced a new teaching technology immediately after the training program is shown in table 5, this number doesnt differ before and after 2 the training (7, N = 50) =7.57, p = .271, In order to use some of this tools it is necessary to improve the infrastructure of the institutions, although the overall level of technological equipment is good enough, there are some cases in which specific equipment is required, however, in most cases the low adoption rate of these technological aids is due to the teachers poor ability to use the ICT, once again young students are more inclined and better prepared to embrace virtual learning.

Table 5. Number of teachers who adopted different teaching technologies. Before Podcasts Web page Chat Video conference Search engines E mail Discussion boards Twitter Web videos 1 40 2
a

After 1 45 4
a

0 45 50 2 2
a

0 50 50 6 9
a

20

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CONCLUSIONS

Public Technological education in Mxico has had great advances in the last 10 years, it has covered almost all regions of the country and is quickly improving the quality of their programs, however, it faces difficult challenges in the near future, e-learning represent a valuable and affordable set of tools to face some of them. The DGEST has started a great effort to stay in front of this education revolution which involves investment in infrastructure and training programs for the teachers. The theorising and research about the diffusion of innovation have suggested that staff do not embrace change at the same pace, or in the same way, with some more reluctant than others to adopt new technologies into their practice. Most of the times, students themselves are the ones who have brought these tools to their schools, generating dynamic processes in and out of the classrooms, as the wide range of applications ICT have allow students to use them at work, at home or in the school. Understanding of the factors that influence adoption of innovation is valuable for determining the design and content for staff development programs aimed at integrating the online environment into all institutional teaching.

REFERENCES
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