Students’ Perceptions on Barriers of Online Learning at Sultan Qaboos University in Sultanate of Oman

Introduction

The role of the internet in public life has developed a concept where social communications have become a more interactive process than ever before. This could be highlighted by mentioning the growing transmission of information among various subjects like business and politicians, the news media, and the public. This process can be regarded as a process flowing downwards from governing institutions towards citizens. This has also enabled straight linkages among the different populations of the society. It should be taken into account as the main fallout of this technology when it acts upwards from public opinion towards authorities. (IPDI, 2004)

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In this context, the aspects of e-learning or online learning become significant particularly while venturing the parameters of Students’ perceptions on barriers of online learning at Sultan Qaboos University in Sultanate of Oman. The study would examine the vital factors associated with e-learning and they are

  1. administrative issues,
  2. social interaction,
  3. academic skills,
  4. technical skills,
  5. learner motivation,
  6. time and support for studies,
  7. cost and access to the Internet, and
  8. technical problems, if they affect students the learning outcomes of online learning.

While venturing these issues in the context of the online education system the basic questions related to Students’ perceptions on barriers of online learning at Sultan Qaboos University in Sultanate of Oman, the fundamental question related to the study would be bipolar.

One-What are the barriers that a student faces when they take online courses?

Two-Are there any group differences on the perceptions of barriers on gender, Students rank, and major?

Literature Review

Sultan Qaboos University started in 1986. It started with five disciplines on five separate constructions viz. Science, Education, Agriculture, Engineering, and Medicine. “The College of Arts was opened in 1987, and a College of Commerce and Economics was opened in 1993”. (SQU, 1999) The online learning program has started recently, however, there are few distinct differences to the traditional learning functionalities and approach to the e-learning methods and there are significant barriers to the system. (Russell, 1999)

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In this context of the study, Muilenburga pointed out that there are fundamentally six barriers in the context of online learning. The main barrier according to Muilenburga is Time/interruptions. This is “grouping has to do with the perceived barriers to students’ spending time in learning online and the interruptions that may disrupt a student’s learning.” (Muilenburga, 2005) The second barrier is referred to as Infrastructure/support services where the fundamental infrastructure must be helpful for the learning process otherwise, the students are sure to face problems.

(Mungania, 2003) The third barrier is defined as motivation where the “grouping has to do with the psychological processes that cause students to persist in meeting their learning goals.” (Muilenburga, 2005) The fourth and fifth are very obvious requirements of Prerequisite skills and technical know-how and without it, the whole system of the online operations would subsequently fail. The last barrier is social. “This grouping refers to the learning environment that is created for learning online which should be friendly and social, and one in which learning is promoted.” (Muilenburga, 2005)

On the other hand, the report done by Ross, Lowther, Walter, McDonald, and Wang in the Center for Research in Educational Policy paper titled Tennessee Technology Literacy Challenge Fund: Evaluation Report from 2002 shows reiteration of the ideals that Goals 2000 provides. As in the Goals 2000 work, all teachers would have training and support in using computers and the internet during classroom instruction.

All classrooms, students, and teachers would have modern multimedia computer accessibility. (Ross, 2002) Similarly, in the context of Sultan Qaboos University internet capacity is available for all classrooms and effective and efficient software and online learning sources are considered integral within every school’s curriculum. The results were then tabulated using measures such as School Observation Measure, Expanded Rubric, Survey of Computer Use, Teacher Technology Questionnaire, School Climate Inventory, Technology Coach Survey, Teacher Focus Groups, Principal Interviews, Technology Coach Interview, and Technology Benchmarks.

According to the results, portrayed, significant differences on nine of the twenty-four SOM strategies in that higher frequency could be assessed. Work centers, more project-based learning, and systematic individual instruction including independent inquiry, all of which were more student-centered. The use of technology and interest in the students themselves would also have shown an increase.

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In the Merle Marsh, Teachers Teaching Teachers: From Sharing Information in the Hallway to Desktop Movies on the Internet from Computer Learning 2001 and the Computer Learning Foundation there are many factors that affect how integration is managed, dependent on school funding, availability of support methods for the teaching staff and administration and adequate facility planning. The Computer Learning Foundation would provide guidance by bringing responsible leadership in the use of computers and related technologies in the classroom. This they manage through Computer Learning Month, in October, as has been managed for nearly two decades.

The factors that help this include Digital Workshops in Iowa, Integrated Websites in Colorado, Online Support of School-Level Training in Tennessee, Professional Development in North Carolina, Two Teachers Together with Technology in New York, Professional Development for a New Era in New Jersey, and many other programs. (Computer Learning 2001, 2000) Sultan Qaboos University follows a similar path in online education to eradicate problems and yield solutions.

On a similar note, another Australian piece relates to pre-service teachers and what the two authors term as a metacognitive approach to computer education. This piece, written by R. Phelps and A. Ellis at the Australian Computers in Education Conference, from July 2002 would compare styles of integration training including competency-based and capability-based computer education. The focus for this paper, as the antithesis of that done by Ross, Lowther, Walter, McDonald, and Wang during the same year would be that this paper focuses on the teachers and their understanding of integration rather than both teachers and students working toward integration with administrators.

One that is more in line with Ross, Lowther, Walter, McDonald, and Wang in 2002 would in fact involve a discussion of thirty-three school districts upon the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act. The development of this act would in fact have caused a great many immediate changes in the integration practices for school districts in order to ensure that levels of achievement were improved. This was mainly a compliance issue in place of being a pure educational consideration.

Each school in this piece was given a background understanding, a progress report, and major and minor implementation issues. Although the Ross, Lowther, Walter, McDonald, and Wang in 2002 piece did not cover such a wide selection of schools or go so far in-depth with the considerations and evaluations, the two reports share many common threads including the need for teacher support, administrative support, and adequate implementation ability across classrooms and throughout, regardless of age group or economical stature. (Phelps, 2002)

But nevertheless, it is evident that the amount of influence of the internet on today’s mass is extremely substantial and it cannot be overlooked that the potential of this tool as a communicative medium could be significant enough in the near future that could have the potential to topple the government and change the fate of a country forever. The only variable remaining is the proper ability and apposite will to indulge in the prospective strength of the internet. It would be clarified if the aspect of the race is taken into consideration. (Hara, 1998)

The presence of racism is well documented in many societal domains including the workplace, school, health care, and housing. It is very peculiar to consider racism as an ideology where humans are separated into various groups in the belief that some people are superior because they belong to a particular ethnic or national group. It could be summarized that racism is the result of having negative judgments, beliefs, and feelings towards certain identifiable groups.

In a general sense, it can be stated that racism is fuelled by different aspects like low education, unfavorable economic condition, the social structure that is inclined towards a specific religion or cult, and most important of all- ill-fated political motivation. The only aspect that can ease racial tensions without losing racial identity is better understanding and development of knowledge. However, that certainly requires time. The Internet can provide a fast solution to this aspect. (Kenny, 2003)

It should be mentioned that the chief reason behind the racial problem is mistrust. This mistrust arises from the parameters of low knowledge about the other race. If it was possible to intermingle among all the races, it is certainly the aspect of racism that would be completely abolished. This is a favorable undertaking to play down the possible racial tension among different cultural and racial groups.

It is almost like a plan to implement conflict management techniques where conflict tends to disappear as soon as an individual understands the position of the other and starts respecting the position. The internet should be allowed to operate, as these steps would ultimately ease tensions among races in the end. (Maltby, 2000)

In this context, it should be stated that Sultan Qaboos University in Sultanate of Oman holds a distinct position. However, it is true that “The traditional Islamic separation of the sexes is maintained in the architecture of the University. There is separate access to buildings through lower and upper walkways for men and women and separate seating in the classrooms.” (SQU, 1999) At the same time, it should be noted that about a half of the students are women, and “the campus portrays the rich heritage of Oman and Islam while incorporating all the efficiencies of modern life. The result is an educational and living environment which is both functional and attractive.” (SQU, 1999)

Methodology

The best method, in this case, would be the use of qualitative analysis. The basic advantages of qualitative measures are multifold. Firstly, it presents a completely realistic approach that the statistical analysis and numerical data used in research based on quantitative research cannot provide. Another advantage of qualitative measures is that it is more flexible in nature in terms of collected information interpretation, subsequent analysis, and data collection. It also presents a holistic point of view of the investigation. Furthermore, this approach of research allows the subjects to be comfortable thus be more accurate as research is carried on in accordance with the subject’s own terms.

As descriptions of statistical methods that will be used it could be stated that in order to isolate the results for this particular study, only a survey questionnaire done would have been utilized. These questionnaires would be delivered to students and teachers along with the administrators of the events. The results were divided into these same categories to ensure validity and reliability. General information in regard to identifiers was utilized in order to ensure that there would be no bias.

The best statistical method would be to interview long well-formulated day-to-day working procedures at a specific and well-selected location. Throughout the procedure, it should be noticed whether there are specific variables within the testable population or not. These variables would be extremely important while evaluating the basic data in the final stages where the adjustments would be made to the formulated data in accordance with the observations. However, it is important to completely take into account the aspects of fundamental variables of an individual such as ethnicity, religious belief, or positive support from the learning structure of the management and individual.

References

Computer Learning 2001; Teachers Teaching Teachers; Computer Learning Foundation. Web.

Hara, N; (1998); Students’ perspectives in a Web-based distance education course; Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Mid-Western Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL. Web.

Hara, N., & Kling, R; (1999); A case study of students’ frustrations with a Web-based distance education course; First Monday, 4(12). Web.

IPDI; 2004; Political Influence Online; Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet; The George Washington University. Web.

Kenny, J; (2003); Student perceptions of the use of online learning technology in their Courses; ultiBASE Articles. Web.

Mungania, P; (2003); The seven e-learning barriers facing employees: Final report. Web.

Maltby, J. R., & Whittle, J; (2000); Learning programming online: Student perceptions and Performance; Proceedings of the ASCILITE 2000 Conference. Web.

Muilenburga, Lin Y & Bergeb, Zane L; 2005; Student Barriers to Online Learning: A factor analytic study; University of South Alabama, USA; Distance Education, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 29–48. Web.

Phelps, R. & Ellis, A.; 2002; A Metacognitive Approach to Computer Education for Teachers: Combining Theory and Practice for Computer Capability; Linking Learners: Australian Computers in Education Conference; Hobart, Tasmania. Web.

Russell, T. L; (1999); The “no significant difference phenomenon;” Raleigh: North Carolina State University. Web.

Ross, Steven M. & Lowther, Deborah L. & Walter, Jennifer W. & McDonald, Aaron J. & Wang, L. Weiping; 2002; Tennessee Technology Literacy Challenge Fund: Evaluation Report; The University of Memphis. Web.

SQU; 1999; About the University; SQU Administration. Web.

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