EUROCALL 2014

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Engineering Students’ Attitudes towards an Online Discussion Board

Recently computer-mediated communication systems have come to serve an important role in tertiary education throughout the world for the purpose of improving the quality of learning environments (Balaji, 2010; Keyler & Weller, 2007). Computer-mediated communication systems, including message boards, discussion forums and bulletin boards, allow participants to share their ideas with each other by posting comments and questions, as well as responding to messages individually anytime and anywhere (Ho, 2005). These systems also enable students to receive materials, complete assignments and take tests. Research has suggested that the benefits of these computer-based communication environments are enormous for students who feel isolated in their study. These systems also help students acquire the ability to gain knowledge asynchronously between other students and their instructors. This is one of the major benefits of online learning, and, as Wang & Woo (2006) claim, it even fosters more productive in class communication and corporation. In many Japanese universities, online communication systems have become common in teaching a variety of subjects. This is partly because they assist students in communicating with each other without hesitation and provides them with a sense of community. However, in spite of this growth in the number of students participating in digital communication, instructors are faced with various challenges to using such systems effectively in their own classes. Traditional ways of teaching are not effective in an online environment so students will be unable to benefit from it unless instructors come to understand how to properly utilize these systems. In addition, more research should be conducted concerning how to develop online environments for students to enhance their critical thinking and problem solving skills.

This study describes one Japanese university’s engineering class’s experience with using an online discussion board as part of their program. Its focus is an examination of how effectively novice users perceive and utilize the system within their otherwise traditional face to face engineering course. The study illustrates the importance of providing students with opportunities to use online communication. It also outlines the research involved in introducing a computer-mediated discussion board and details about how to implement it.

The data acquired in the study offers many pedagogical implications about such a system’s introduction into traditional education settings. In addition, the results suggest that instructors need ensure their online environments enhance social interaction, such that students are motivated to develop a sense of responsibility in their online interactions. The educational benefits and limitations with regards to tertiary education in Japan and more detailed explanations regarding the study will also be presented at the conference.

Author(s):

Yoshihiro Hirata    
Faculty of Engineering
Hokkai-Gakuen University
Japan

Yoshihiro Hirata is an associate professor at Faculty of Engineering, Hokkai-Gakuen University. He received his PhD in electrical engineering from Hokkaido University, Sapporo, in 1992. He is interested in auditory signal processing and ICT application in classroom.

Yoko Hirata    
Faculty of Engineering
Hokkai-Gakuen University
Japan

Yoko Hirata is currently teaching English at Faculty of Engineering, Hokkai-Gakuen University in Sapporo, Japan. She has been teaching EFL for more than ten years at secondary and tertiary levels. Her current research interests include corpus-based material development and computer-assisted language learning.

 

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