One of the sessions generating lively discussion and divergent views was Student Perspectives. The format was introduced in 2005, and it has proved popular for its style, substance and focus on youth voices. Chaired by Gunnar Brückner of coachingplatform Inc, last year’s session looked at how university students around Europe are using technology to enhance their education experience. Having grown up in a wireless world, the use of technological tools is second nature to many students. So while the use of ICTs in education retains a sense of novelty for older users, the youth know of no other learning environment.
After Brückner’s introduction, the young presenters each took about five minutes to share examples of how they integrate e-learning into their coursework. Master’s student Bastian Hagmeier’s described a research project that outlined the coordination problems that sometimes arise through inefficient online collaboration.
Many courses require group work, and students thus have to be willing to cooperate and agree on a platform for exchanging ideas. Students typically take classes with others taking different majors, so finding time to meet is an ever-present challenge. Many universities have learning management systems such as Moodle, WebCT, and Blackboard in place, and the students expressed satisfaction with the convenience that these offer. However, they also spoke of how they try to integrate their learning with social media such as Facebook. “We don’t want to have to remember multiple logins,” said Tobias, an industrial engineering student. The students detailed their experiences with using Skype, Twitter and Facebook to keep in touch with their peers as they work on term papers and group projects. However, their expectations that lecturers follow suit and adopt these social media for course work have been met with resistance. An audience member chimed in in support of the lecturers’ stance: “You can’t expect someone who has developed their material over many decades to simply jump ship and migrate to a social network for teaching.”
The polar views made for an interesting exchange as the students argued for more independence and a need for some of their instructors to modernise their methods. In a learning environment where a plethora of resources are available on the Internet, there is no question that the new learning culture will win the day. The transition phase, when the boundaries of the new paradigm are defined, is the centre of contention, and thus inviting students to share their views was an excellent move to gather ideas from all angles.