VLA: an approach for improving the quality of communication inside a venezuelan university, LAR Ch, KI Cañizales

Tags: teachers, communication, Informant, students, traditional model, Luis Alfredo, Lara, Venezuela, da, Lisandro Alvarado, de la, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Dir, ica, communication specialists, The teacher, students questions, educational processes, CentroccidentalLisandro Alvarado University, communication strategies, quality criteria, Entorno Virtual de Aprendizaje, Science and Technology Department, Virtual Learning Environments, Distance Education, Virtual Learning Environment, communication technology
Content: 8 Artigo VLA: an approach for improving the quality of communication inside a venezuelan university Luis Alfredo Ramнrez Ch.1 Keyla Isabel Caсizales 2
ABSTRACT The objective of this article is to evaluate the virtual learning environment managed by the Deanery of Science and technology of the Centroccidental Lisandro Alvarado University, under a communication perspective. The investigation focuses on communication in the Distance Education point-of-view, and on the indication of strategies that encourage participation. Information and communication technologies might cause new terms to be inserted or excluded from vocabularies and may affect the correct use of language and quality of contents. Through the combination of mixed methods, with emphasis in qualitative methodology tools (interviews, focal group and questionnaires), the content of 53 programs was revised. A total of 20 programs were considered interactive, 26 used as information repositories, and 7 were inactive. We aimed to contribute with teachers and students, but also to encourage reflection among all the actors involved in the process.
As bad practice indicators, the following could be highlighted: misusage of upper-and lower-case letters, empty interactive sections (which does not favor motivation); missing author references or indication of sources, and students' questions remaining unanswered due to lacking feedback. Good practices have also been observed, such as courses with clear instructions and proper indications are given to students. Keywords: distance education; quality; communication; technology. RESUMEN El objetivo esevaluar comunicacionalmentelos entornos virtuales de aprendizaje del Decanato de Ciencias y Tecnologнa de la Universidad Centroccidental "Lisandro Alvarado". Se trata de una aproximaciуn de la comunicaciуn de la Educaciуn a Distancia y determinar las estrategias que incentivanlaparticipaciуn. La intervenciуn de las tecnologнas de la informaciуn y la comunicaciуn
1 UniversidadCentroccidental "Lisandro Alvarado"(Barquisimeto­Lara, Venezuela); [email protected] 2 UniversidadCentroccidental "Lisandro Alvarado"(Barquisimeto­Lara, Venezuela); [email protected]
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podrнan generarel uso o desuso de nuevos podem tambйm afetar o correto uso da lingua-
tйrminos, pero tambiйn afectar el correcto gem e a qualidade dos conteъdos. Atravйs da
uso del lenguaje y lacalidad de los contenidos. combinaзгo de mйtodos mistos, com кnfase
Mediante la combinaciуn de mйtodos mixtos, nas ferramentas da metodologia qualitati-
conйn fasisen las herramientas de la metodo- va (entrevistas, grupo focal e questionбrios),
logнa cualitativa, (entrevistas, grupo focal y revisou-se o conteъdo de 53 cursos. Desses,
Associaзгo Brasileira de Educaзгo a Distвncia
encuestas), se revisa el contenido de 53 cur- somente 20 apresentam interatividade, 26 sгo
sos, de estos, sуlo 20 presentan interactividad, utilizados como repositуrios de informaзгo e 7
26 son utilizados como repositorios de infor- estгo inativos. Visa-se oferecer um aporte para
maciуn y 07 estб ninactivos. Se busca brin- docentes e aprendizes, mas, tambйm, a reflexгo
dar un aporte para docentes y aprendices, asн de todos os atores envolvidos. Destaca-se entre
como la reflexiуn de todos los actores involu- a mб prбxis: o mal uso de maiъsculas e minъs-
crados. Entre las malas prбcticas destaca: mal culas; seзхes de interatividade vazias, o que po-
uso de mayъsculas y minъsculas; secciones de deria desmotivar a participaзгo; matйrias sem
interactividad vacнas que podrнan desalentar referкncia da autoria ou sem indicar a fonte e a
la participaciуn; materiales sin referenciar ausкncia de retorno diante das perguntas dos
la autorнa o sin indicar la fuente y, ausencia estudantes. Existem boas prбticas como cursos
de retroalimentaciуn ante las interrogantes onde as instruзхes sгo claras e elabora-se uma
de los estudiantes. Hay buenas prбcticas en adequada induзгo ao estudante.
cursos enlos que la sin struccionesson claras y donde se elabora una adecuada inducciуnal estudiante.
Palavras-chave: educaзгo a distвncia; qualidade; comunicaзгo; tecnologia.
Palabras-clave: educaciуn a distancia; calidad; comunicaciуn; tecnologнa. RESUMO O objetivo do artigo й avaliar o ambiente virtual da aprendizagem do Decanato de Ciкncias e Tecnologia da Universidade do Centro-oeste "Lizandro Alvarado" (Venezuela) do ponto de vista da comunicaзгo. Trata-se de uma abordagem do ponto de vista da comunicaзгo na Educaзгo а Distвncia e a indicaзгo de estratйgias que incentivam a participaзгo. As intervenзхes das tecnologias da informбtica e da comunicaзгo poderiam gerar o uso ou desuso de novos termos, porйm,
INTRODUCTION The main purpose of this research is to evaluate the communication present in the Virtual Learning Environment (VLA3) used by the Distance Education (D.E.) systemof the Science and Technology Department at the CentroccidentalLisandro Alvarado University (UCLA), located in the Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto, Lara state. In addition, this study aims towards determining the communication strategies for encouraging the participation of students. Such strategies are used by teachers, assistants and tutors of the semi-traditional model, developed under the UCLA's Distance Education System (Seducla4).
3 TL: Acronym in English for original in Spanish EVA ­ Entorno Virtual de Aprendizaje 4 TN: Original acronym in Spanish. RBAAD ­ VLA: an approach for improving the quality of communication inside a venezuelan university
Associaзгo Brasileira de Educaзгo a Distвncia
The research is aligned with the become capable professionals and responsible
constant concern to make proper use citizens ­ who must face the globalized world.
of communication, considering that This attribution is impossible to accomplish
the intervention of information and without a high-quality faculty staff.
communication technology (ICT) generally
435 Perй (2004) highlights that both
leads to the insertion or exclusion of terms communication and education have
from vocabulary, and it may also affect developed parallel theories that are closely
the correct use of language, negatively related. According to the author, it is
influencing the quality of contents shared impossible to consider education and not
under the D.E. model.
contemplate communication, because when
Quality, communication and education: a close link
there is an educational relationship, so is established a communicational one.
In 2005, the Virtual Center for the Development of Quality Patterns in Distance, Higher Education in Latin America and the Caribbean, along with the Private Technical University of Loja, and with the objective of promoting the launching, improvement and successful management of D.E. programs based on information technology among higher education providers, have together highlighted a list of quality criteria: a)Facilitating Processes (leadership and management style; policies and strategy, human development; resources and alliances; recipients and educational processes) b) Results (related to recipients; educational processes, people, society, global). It must be noted that communication plays a determinant role for successfully evaluating, verifying, or analyzing quality according to such criteria. Thus, quality criteria in the semi-traditional model is closely linked to the communicative issue. According to Monterola (2011), one of the roles attributed to Higher Education is the need to provide qualified training ­ to
On the other hand, Palacios (2006) considers that communication in D.E. may be understood as exercises in human being's quality; leisure; expression; interaction; affirmation of the being; openness to the world; feeling yourself and others and take ownership of oneself. The author warns that the combination of pedagogy, communication, technology and administration represents D.E.'s real challenge, which has not been approached in an integral, systemic and modular fashion. Santos and Oliveira (2011) argue that among the common strategies to encourage interaction are greetings, emoticons, compliments, questions, suggestions, recommendations and evaluations. According to the authors, the use of strategies of affection nature is vital to assure students' participation in environments where written communication replaces face-to-face interaction. Clementino (2011) mentions that among the motivational factors mentioned by D.E. students, special highlight was given to feedback and personalized attention from teacher or tutor, which they believe to be
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differentials that humanize the teaching- RESULTS
learning process. Thus, the tripod ­ interaction,
feedback, personalized attention ­ allows for Main findings at the VLEs
the establishment or fomentation of personal
relationships among participants of the
Currently, there are a total of 53 programs
virtual model.
registered on the platform (http://sed.ucla.
edu.ve). Only 20 of them are interactive
Associaзгo Brasileira de Educaзгo a Distвncia
(i.e. maintain communication among participants); 26 programs are exclusively
A combination of mixed methods is used in the research, with particular focus on the qualitative methodology. Casas (2008) warns of potential limitations, Advantages and Disadvantages of each methodology. Questionnaires were the technique of choice, which were applied to Seducla's representatives, focal group for consultation with teachers working in programs of semitraditional models, platform revisions and questionnaires to students. Two were the tools for collecting information, as detailed below: a) One pilot questionnaire, electronically distributed, applied to D.E students of Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) selected for the study b) Once the results from the pilot instrument were sorted and analyzed, they were presented to the facilitators or faculty specialists, gathered as a focal group with the objective of considering the recommendations drafted by them, correcting it and then reapplying the finalized version on-site, directly to the students of the selected VLEs.
used as subjects' information repository and 7 are unfinished or inactive. In regards to the courses offered on the website http://sed.ucla. edu.ve/ced, there are a total of 52. However, the majority is under construction and only 10 offer some interactivity in periods different than the ones covered by the study. The misuse of lower- and upper-case letters is evident, as well as mistakes in gender, singular/plural forms and empty interactive sections. In addition, references to authors and sources are missing from the material. There is poor wording and overuse of uppercase on the instructions given to students, as well as incorrect use of graphic accents. Many students ­ and some teachers, despite the faculty's clear request for a full profile ­ do not upload their face pictures. Similarly, feedback on proposed activities is not evident, at least not on the platform. Students' assignments are delivered with punctuation mistakes and failure to comply with guidelines is evident. Some of the programs present clear instructions, adequately developed commands and presentation dynamics, motivating the
students' participation. Expectations towards
the subject are explored; the content and
evaluation plans are presented. In some
cases, values like responsibility, honesty,
RBAAD ­ VLA: an approach for improving the quality of communication inside a venezuelan university
cooperation and tolerance and emphasized.
which is writing, composing, language".
In other cases, norms band basic rules of the
(MP, March 2012).
center and computer laboratory are laid out.
"We have been trying to communicate
Associaзгo Brasileira de Educaзгo a Distвncia
The use of tools like Slideshare (for presentations), FLV Player (for videos) or
through video, but I upload them on YouTube and they download it"
(CP, March 2012).
ISpring (for presentations with animation)
with the purpose of making content more
"Combining the virtual and the on-site
dynamic and attractive has been observed. Forums are also used to encourage participation, with instructions that invite
aspects. Because it has happened to me a few times and I become self aware for not being able to evaluate what was done on the virtual portion. That is, providing
moderators to guide the discussion of themes
feedback on what was done during the
they introduce.
week on the platform on the following
There is contribution from students providing a collaborative environment; e.g. when they recommend useful software for the
meeting. If that is accomplished, we will be able to improve a lot, which will allow us to keep going" (HA, March 2012).
program and provide computer access and application download time. Similarly, there is potential for students to help each other with their own questions regarding the program and content.
Shortcomings in reading and comprehension in pending assignments According to teachers, basic shortcomings in reading comprehension prevent students from understanding instructions they provide
Incentives to encourage participation
using the platform's forums:
Among the strategies highlighted by teachers to motivate students' participation are Skype and the personal presentations on the social forum. However, according to teachers, one of the downsides is the mostly text-based interactivity characteristic of relationships in social forums, pushing for a video complementation to the tool. Another strategy is to provide feedback on virtual assignments, but given personally, which could help with student's adherence: "I get motivated with the social forum, I try to get involved with the presentations forum... but they do feel there is one disadvantage, - warns - ... everything is written! For them, to sit and write is to overcome an obstacle,
"My kids read next to nothing! It's true... they read some parts and ignore others, I don't understand why... They do not perform an exhaustive reading! It's as if they read the first and the last part and many times answer their questions based on such questions. I see this very often". (MP, March, 2012). "We are dealing with students that live in an era of image and sound ­ for us, it was writing. They have grown up with video, interactive games, blackberry ­ for them, writing is secondary, even though it is fundamental for us! Therefore, a tool such as this one must be visual and contain video in order to be fully used!" (CP, March 2012).
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A different group of teachers feels Students demand more investments and that writing is an issue that students handle attention to D.E.
Associaзгo Brasileira de Educaзгo a Distвncia
according to their interests. Anything that is
The student survey on learning on the
able to capture their attention through social semi-traditional model and the contribution networks, albeit lacking orthographic quality, compared to the traditional model point
is developed by the students. This might to the conclusion that some students in the
lead to the reflection that perhaps there is study prefer the traditional model because
Untapped Potential within the platform still to they do not own a computer and believe that
be deciphered by teachers and tutors.
the alternative demands more of their time
Teacher training
and is also often seen as more difficult. Other students claim to not have received all the
One of the aspects mentioned by information, as they are still in the beginning
facilitators or teachers participating of the of their career.
research was the offer of constant training for the use of tools and other areas, such as design:
"On-site classes are more dynamic and answers to questions come immediately. I am more participative on-site, I do not log-on
"I feel I will need support in the phase of design for interfaces. I believe that
because I don't own a computer and I no time to be online" (Informant 26, May 2012)
they're fine as is, but perhaps a bit too formal for the kids. They probably need more attractive and colorful[interfaces], with icons... I will sure need help there!" (MT, March 2012).
Another group of students finds advantages on the semi-traditional model because it reinforces their knowledge. There's availability of material and possibility to capture the teacher's attention in a more
"Of course we need, but not one for the technology tool, not for me! It's
personalized manner. The model allows the student to work more comfortably from home,
not the most important. We need help regarding the semi-traditional [model], that's what we need to be clear with students about" (HA, March 2012).
helps to build confidence and develop selflearning and research skills. Some students suggest improvements in tests and evaluations, requesting more time to finish them.
Among the mistakes mentioned by teachers approached by the study, the most relevant one seems to be taking as a given that students know the platform because they are in from the technology field and propose to instruct them to solve the issue
"It's better because it gives us more opportunity to do well, more participation, and our participation is taken into account, although they should improve the types of tests and time to answer them" (Informant 31, May 2012)
"D.E. makes it easy to absorb content, helps us to teach ourselves and creates the need to find out more. Unfortunately, when
RBAAD ­ VLA: an approach for improving the quality of communication inside a venezuelan university
you have no contact with the teacher and become examples to students. The research
the material is confusing, you're left with highlights affection as a theme, contrary to
questions" (Informant 48, June 2012)
what first impressions, due to the lacking
"There's more participation from my face-to-face contact. It seems that the semi-
part because of the discussion forums and traditional model does not dismiss the
Associaзгo Brasileira de Educaзгo a Distвncia
they are evaluated. I am always in contact importance of affection at the same time as it
with the teacher online and we discuss the makes it clear that it will not treat its students
questions" (Informant 51, June 2012)
in a childish, paternal way, but consider each
of their questions and work on them together.
"The platform system should not be so In that sense, the tutor should give the student
limited, considering that some people work all the necessary support.
and study and can only log-on in the evening"
(Informant 51, June 2012)
The knowledge on the students' opinion
"The teacher should be more specific according to the theme of the day and teachers should make more use of the virtual environment" (Informant 30, May 2012)
of VLEs requires a commitment made by all to improve aspects related to communication. On the other hand, it is an invitation to continue developing VLEs, motivation and permanent, full-time capacity building of teachers and
"It's a valuable tool, but it should be students. At the same time, feedback provokes
better oriented, should be used from the consideration for change in the ins-and-outs
first semester. [The school should] Make an of the semi-traditional model.
effort so it's not just a material repository, but a constant interaction wherever you are" (Informant 48, June 2012) The surveyed students state that the instructions given are clear and precise, and consider it to be a gratifying experience regarding content. Interaction among students is not intense, as 43% of them claim to have not achieved their objective. However, 70% of the surveyed group believes teachers have valued their contribution. A similar portion believes to have developed self-learning skills and a collaborative spirit.
Among the suggestions brought by the students are platform flexibility and availability and acquisition of better equipment for DCyT. In some cases, there have been requests for more examples and less theoretical content. The demand for more teacher presence in the virtual environment reflects this need. One recommendation that rises from this research is the motivation of all actors that take part of the activity. Another one is that D.E. specialists, trained for said environments, become part of Seducla's teams.
Also, that these professionals are teachers with developing VLE. Subcontract external
VLE's quality is linked to communication specialists should only be a last resource, as
and in the semi-traditional model, written experience lies in the hands of the model's
communication is vital. Therefore, the correct pioneers, who have a lot to say to convince
use of punctuation signs is vital so teachers those who still offer some resistance.
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RBAAD ­ VLA: an approach for improving the quality of communication inside a venezuelan university

LAR Ch, KI Cañizales

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