CUC 2004 / New Frontiers / New Techhnologies for New Needs
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Communication aspects of CARNet's online courses / C4
Author: Petar Jandrić, CARNet, Croatia


This paper is analysing communication aspects of two online courses: Basics of Internet and Development of Web animations using Macromedia Flash. The study is based on the pilot project executed in cooperation between CARNet Educational Center Edupoint and Educational Institution Algebra.

Courses were held between July 26th and June 9th. Each course was held in two different versions:

  • More mentored course
  • Less mentored course.

Total number of students on both courses was 60: 30 for each course, 15 for each version of the course. For each course, the same person mentored both versions. Few participants on each course were CARNet’s teachers who are experts both in information technologies and methodics.
Participants were selected in ratios that roughly represent CARNet users. Measures of their satisfaction and success were quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative results on their knowledge were collected by written tests before and after attending the course, while quantitative results on their satisfaction were collected by a written questionnaire. After the end of courses, qualitative results were obtained through focus groups led by specialist.

Mentors’ work was constantly followed through regular meetings and written reports. Mentors also reviewed both courses. Additionally, after finishing courses their opinions were collected through semi-structured interview.

Main goals of the pilot project are:

  • To test the usability of offered courses on population of CARNet’s users
  • To create recommendations for further improvement of these courses
  • To create recommendations for development of other online courses.

This research is particularly interesting because such study hasn’t been conducted in Croatia until now. Similar studies have been conducted abroad, but their results are not fully applicable in Croatian conditions due to differences in culture and educational systems.

Paper is primarily focused on analysing communication in studied courses and creating recommendations for developing adequate communicational surrounding for various target populations. Mentors and other persons involved into educational process are not included in this study.

The population of CARNet’s users is extremely diverse in age, education and geographical position. It contains college students, university teachers and researchers from different fields throughout Croatia. Such a diverse target population requires various communicational means of approach.

This study is focused on two main problems:

1. Students’ adaptation to e-learning
As it is known from pedagogy, the change of learning environment contains much deeper conceptual changes than simple shift from paper to screen. According to Kuhn’s Structure of scientific revolutions, this shift is called the change of learning paradigm.
This part of the study is focused on quality of communicating this change, and tries to give recommendations for its development.

2. Students’ communication
For the majority of students, electronic media (in which online courses are conducted), is new and undiscovered environment. In a case of misunderstanding an element of the course, there is no possibility of mentor’s direct response. Even if misunderstandings can be solved through Help tutorial, procedure of finding the solution is often slow and boring. Therefore, communication is probably the most important key for success of an online course.

In this study, communication was studied in three different directions:

  • Student - LMS
  • Student - mentor
  • Student - student.

Each direction was studied from several aspects:

  • Visual
  • Auditive
  • Language
  • Technical
  • Methodical.

Analyses of each problem contain practical recommendations for further development and implementation of online courses. Nevertheless, conclusions are derived from careful overview of the whole communicational environment. Author is strongly convinced that conclusions from this paper overcome implementation in academic and research community, and encourages their use with other populations.

Petar Jandrić is an expert associate at Croatian Academic and Research Network - CARNet in Zagreb. In 2004 he started a project "Development and Implementation of Online Courses" and is involved on several other educational projects.
His work and studies are focused on humanistic aspects of online education – mostly organisational, pedagogical, methodical and communicational. He has attended online courses in Croatia. Together with colleagues he regularly publishes project results on company level, as well as in front of scientific community.
Petar Jandrić published two papers and is a frequent speaker before information and education experts.

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