Perceptions of online learning in an Australian university : Malaysian students' perspectives

Chew, Shiun Yee (2011) Perceptions of online learning in an Australian university : Malaysian students' perspectives. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Several researchers have reported that cultural and language differences can affect online interactions and communications between students from different cultural backgrounds. Other researchers have asserted that online learning is a tool that can improve teaching and learning skills, but, its effectiveness depends on how the tool is used. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the kinds of challenges encountered by the international students and how they actually cope with online learning. To date little research exists on the perceptions of online learning environments by international Asian students, in particular Malaysian students who study in Australian Universities; hence this study aims to fill this gap. A mixed-method approach was used to collect quantitative and qualitative data using a modified Online Learning Environment Survey (OLES) instrument and focus group interviews. The sample comprised 76 international students from a university in Brisbane. Thirty-five domestic Australian students were included for comparison. Contrary to assumptions from previous research, the findings revealed that there were few differences between the international Asian students from Malaysia and Australian students with regard to their perceptions of online learning. Another cogent finding that emerged was that online learning was most effective when included within blended learning environments. The students clearly indicated that when learning in a blended environment, it was imperative that appropriate features are blended in and customised to suit the particular needs of international students. The study results indicated that the university could improve the quality of the blended online learning environment by: 1) establishing and maintaining a sense of learning community; 2) enhancing the self motivation of students; and 3) professional development of lecturers/tutors, unit coordinators and learning support personnel. Feedback from focus group interviews, highlighted the students‘ frustration with a lack of cooperative learning, strategies and skills which were expected of them by their lecturers/tutors in order to work productively in groups. They indicated a strong desire for lecturers/tutors to provide them prior training in these strategies and skills. The students identified four ways to optimise learning opportunities in cross-cultural spaces. These were: 1) providing preparatory and ongoing workshops focusing on the dispositions and roles of students within student-centred online learning environments; 2) providing preparatory and ongoing workshops on collaborative group learning strategies and skills; 3) providing workshops familiarising students with Australian culture and language; and 4) providing workshops on strategies for addressing technical problems. Students also indicated a strong desire for professional development of lecturers/tutors focused on: 1) teacher attributes, 2) ways to culturally sensitive curricula, and 3) collaborative learning and cooperative working strategies and skills, and 4) designing flexible program structures. Recommendations from this study will be useful to Australian universities where Asian international students from Malaysia study in blended learning environments. An induction program (online skills, collaborative and teamwork skills, study expectations plus familiarisation with Australian culture) for overseas students at the commencement of their studies; a cultural awareness program for lecturers (cultural sensitivity, ways to communicate and a better understanding of Asian educational systems), upskilling of lecturers‘ ability to structure their teaching online and to apply strong theoretical underpinnings when designing learning activities such as discussion forums, and consistency with regards to how content is located and displayed in a learning management system like Blackboard. Through addressing the research questions in this study, the researcher hopes to contribute to and advance the domain of knowledge related to online learning, and to better understand how international Malaysian students‘ perceive online learning environments. These findings have theoretical and pragmatic significance.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 46133
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Lee, Kar-Tin, Chandra, Vinesh, & Nykvist, Shaun
Keywords: blended learning, Asian international students, Malaysian students, online learning, online learning environments, online learning environment survey (OLES), student-centred learning, Blackboard, Net Gen, motivation, online learning strategies, culturally-sensitive curricula, culturally-sensitive interface design, professional development, student induction
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 23 Sep 2011 05:52
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2011 05:52

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