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Online learning environments : the challenge for early childhood teacher education students

By Ann M. Heirdsfield, Julie M. Davis, Sandra Lennox and Sue Walker


As online environments gain an increasing presence in higher education for both on-campus students and distance learners, there is a need to examine how effective these environments are for student learning. Online environments require essentially different teaching and learning strategies from those used in the traditional face-to-face contexts (for on-campus students) or with print-based material (for distance learners). \ud This paper identifies early childhood teacher education students’ perceptions of their learning experiences with the advent of an online learning environment. The participants were all currently enrolled early childhood students, in all School of Early Childhood teacher preparation programs. The response rate was 29% of the entire student cohort, providing 335 completed surveys. The study used an online survey to identify students’ use of and perceptions of Online Learning and Teaching (OLT) features. Qualitative survey responses were collated and reviewed by members of the research team. Descriptive statistics were used to compare responses from on-campus and distance education students. Overall, most students (both on-campus and distance education students) stated that they believed that OLT had improved the quality of their learning, and did not present barriers to their learning. Convenience, accessibility, flexibility and interactivity were frequently noted as perceived benefits by many students. Nevertheless, students from both cohorts commented on the limited nature of student-teacher interaction on some sites. Issues around costs (time and money) and technology were perceived as barriers and caused frustration for some students. Results are discussed in terms of the implications for teacher education staff interested in providing high quality learning environments within an online space. These include: attention to coherence in site design, timely upload of unit materials, and availability of interactive communication functions. Although access and computer compatibility issues are constantly improving, we also need to be aware of difficulties faced by some distance education students

Topics: 130102 Early Childhood Education (excl. Maori), Early childhood Teacher education Online learning Flexible learning Learning technologies, HERN
Year: 2007
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