"Overcoming time, place and pace: using technology-enhanced teaching to support mature evening degree students"

McGinnes, Simon (2011) "Overcoming time, place and pace: using technology-enhanced teaching to support mature evening degree students". [Conference Proceedings]


Increasingly, mature students are entering higher education, yet the teaching and administrative practices in traditional universities strain to adapt. Trinity College’s evening degree in Information Systems (IS) is an example. With average age 31, many students have young families, busy jobs and long working hours. To get their degree they attend lectures for 3 hours, 3 nights per week for four years. As experienced professionals the students learn much from each other and value the opportunity for collaboration with their peers. Yet the attendance requirements impose stress, especially as job insecurity and traffic congestion grow. Moreover, Trinity College’s operations are geared to daytime students, so that evening students can find it difficult to access services. This paper discusses measures taken in Trinity’s IS programme to help evening students participate more successfully in education. Innovations include self-study e-learning, online discussions, podcasting lectures, adaptation to services and use of social computing techniques. The aim has been to increase learning flexibility and choice - particularly over time, place and pace - whilst retaining the all-important “Trinity experience” and reinforcing the programme’s valuable collaborative nature. We found that, while it is easy to envisage and plan such improvements, structural change in a well-established higher education institution is more difficult. It was relatively simple to introduce the technology, but harder to alter mindsets and practices - including those of students. Most would agree that flexibility in learning is a good idea and we have been encouraged by our limited successes to date. But our experience suggests that it is the non-technological factors - cultural, perceptual and organisational - which present more formidable barriers to introduction of technology-enhanced learning in the traditional university. Although difficult to achieve, a holistic approach to the whole organisation is needed, attending to diverse factors including processes, assumptions, regulations, services and methods - as well as technologies.

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NAIRTL 4th Annual Conference (Cork) 2010 Flexible Learning Conference Proceedings_sm.pdf

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