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PhD Student Assists with Study Evaluating SFU's Learning Technologies

August 31, 2017
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By Teaching and Learning Centre staff

This past spring the Teaching and Learning Centre asked 54 students in seven of SFU’s eight Faculties about the technologies they use—or would like to use—in their classrooms and lecture halls. The goal of the project was to gather perspectives for decision-making about the provision and support of learning technologies. But the results also revealed a great deal about the kinds of classroom experiences students wish for.

Download “The Final Report: An Evaluation of Undergraduate Classroom Technology at Simon Fraser University: The Student Experience” (PDF)

Connection and interaction

A frequent theme was the desire for more interaction between and among instructors and students, especially in large classes. Students called for tools like group chat applications to facilitate discussion, live-streaming of student questions during lectures, and “some kind of interactive check for understanding.” As one student said, “The problem is not really about technology, but human interaction in lecture classes.”

Incremental improvements instead of revolutionary advances

When they addressed technology needs directly, students were remarkably practical. Although there were novel suggestions such as “personalized AI [artificial intelligence] tutors and live lecture translation,” many of their suggestions emphasized improvements to basic infrastructure; for example, more power outlets for electronic devices, larger screens for slides with visibility from all locations within a room, better Wi-Fi access, and microphones for lecturers and students. The idea of free or at least subsidized licenses for course-required software was also popular.

The survey uncovered a perception that existing technologies could be employed more effectively. Students suggested that providing additional training for students and instructors to optimize the use of currently available tools could improve the overall learning experience.

Easier access to course materials

Some of the technology requests extended beyond the classroom. The study found that “the majority of students were concerned about access to the lecture materials” both before class to “prime them for the lecture before it begins” and afterwards in the form of video or audio recordings for review. They saw technology as a means of facilitating this access.

Where do we go from here?

TLC learning technology specialist Robyn Schell, who conducted the study along with TLC learning technology manager Lynda Williams and Amir Doroudian, a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education, says the report will be helpful in assessing the value of new tools and technologies—but she also sees it as an affirmation of the TLC Learning Technology team’s move toward supporting instructors “on the spot” in the classroom for extended periods of time.

“Next steps is to actually be embedded with the instructors to help implement [learning technologies] so it’ll relieve them of some of the burden of the change and the demands of technology and make this implementation easier.”

For further information about the report or the TLC Learning Technology team’s embedded support option, contact Robyn Schell at learntech@sfu.ca.

Download a copy of “The Final Report: An Evaluation of Undergraduate Classroom Technology at Simon Fraser University: The Student Experience.”

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