Some problems of distance learning technology application at the university

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №4 - 2012

Sakhariyeva Svetlana, East Kazakhstan State University in honor of S. Amanzholov, Kazakhstan
Serebryanikova Marina, Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics and Informatics (branch), Kazakhstan

In the modern system of higher education there is a gradual displacement of the traditional paradigm, based on passive assimilation of knowledge and upbringing of “a cognizant person”, to a new model of education, which is based on the principle of forming “an intellectual person”, capable to creativity and self-improvement. However, the solution of such a priority task is possible only in case of introduction of innovative technologies into the system of higher education.

Introduction of innovations into the system of education, according to G. V. Lavrentyev, N. V. Lavrentyeva, can be carried out at the following levels:

- macro level, which entails changing the whole educational system and in the majority of cases leads to paradigm change;

- mesa level - leads to changes in the educational environment of the region, as well as the specific educational institution;

- micro level attracts changes in a specific course or block of subjects or courses [1].

However, no matter at what level the innovation is implemented, thorough organization and monitoring of the innovation process implementation and also the observance of the following steps and procedures are necessary:

- theoretical - justification of innovation (functionality in the overall concept of the university, the allocation and implementation of pedagogical, methodological, technological conditions, ensuring efficiency of the process, prognosis of negative and positive outcomes of an innovation);

- organizational - establishment of appropriate structures at the university, which contributes to innovation application;

- innovation – creation of material and technical basis, information and educational environment of the higher education institution, professional development of teaching staff.

In our view, innovation technology in the system of higher education is the technology of creation of a new or existing product on the basis of contemporary methods and techniques of teaching and learning aimed at improving the quality of specialists training and activization of the role of independent work of students.

Innovation in institutes of higher education is, first of all, transformation of new knowledge into new technologies. Distance learning is one that stands out among innovation techniques which have been widely applied into the practice of modern universities. Intensifying processes of distance learning implementation into the higher education system is dictated by the objective circumstances:

- the loss of significance and stagnancy of some traditional distance learning approaches;

- implementation of competence approach in education;

- the dynamics of social, economic processes taking place in a modern society, etc.

Analyzing points of view of various scientists (A. Andreyev, G.K. Nurgaliyeva, D.M. Dzhusubaliyeva, A.T. Chaklikova, I.V. Robert, E.S. Polat, E.G Skibitskiy, etc.) concerning the essence of the notion “distance learning”, it should be mentioned that this term is defined by researchers as “a new form of teaching”, “method”, “process”, “system”, “away”. We relate this notion to off-campus education programs and define it as technology based on IT means, providing interaction of subjects and management of the learning process [2]. The following can be referred to positive aspects of distance learning:

- accessibility - everyone who is at least 18 years old has the right to receive an education;

- flexibility - each student selects an individual pace of studying and individual training strategy, focusing on the final objective; student can also work wherever and whenever it is convenient for him (her), the educational process is subdivided into modules (each week devoted to a certain theme, and exercises for compulsory studying) division into modules creates unlimited opportunities for organization of training programmers and their update;

- cost-effectiveness - distance learning is at least 50% below the cost of full-time tuition;

- individualization of learning - taking into account individual needs of each student, providing individual interaction between the teacher (a tutor) and the student, opportunities to learn outside the classroom and without a group.

It should be noted that the technological features of distance learning have a major impact not only on the selection of content but also on structuring of the training material. The educational process in the form of distance learning is more labor-intensive and multifaceted than in full-time studying.

However, there are certain peculiarities of distance learning application - that must be taken into account when students are selected, course content is developed, and monitoring of students’ knowledge and skills is organized:

- at all stages of the learning process IT and mass media means are used as technological basis;

- interaction between all subjects of educational process (between teachers and students, between students, between institution of higher education and students) is ensured by means of Information and Communication Technologies (hereinafter - ICT);

- students needn’t leave their town and can study the content of the courses individually in the convenient pace;

- the new role of a teacher as a tutor includes coordination, correction, guiding learning process, advising and monitoring the quality of knowledge;

- specialized monitoring of quality of education: a distantly organized exam, an interview, practical or project work, externship, computer, intelligence and testing systems are applied as the form of control;

- the use of new educational technologies and progressive techniques (project-based method, modular teaching, collaborative teaching, teaching at different levels, individual and differentiated approach in teaching, etc.);

- a compulsory computer literacy of all the subjects of the educational process;

- much attention should be paid to independent work of a student – a teacher develops knowledge content (lectures, assignments, a glossary, the test material, exam questions), however a student must independently learn the given content, using only individual consultations, chat rooms, text messaging, etc.

Organization of the distance learning is directly linked to the choice of its form of organization. Different organization forms of distance learning depending on the degree of ICT usage in the learning process are known in the international practice:

- traditional (by correspondence);

- combined;

- partial usage of ICT;

- fully electronic.

We should carefully examine the last two forms of learning because of their high popularity and experimental implementation in the system of off-campus courses at EKSU in honor of S. Amanzholov. In case of partial usage of information technologies a student is given didactic and methodical material in the form of cases, meanwhile some part of the material can be presented in a digital form, all the other learning materials can be uploaded to the portal of distance learning. Teacher and student interaction is done through various means of telecommunication technologies (text messaging, chat rooms, and forums).

An electronic form of studying provides such conveniences, when a student after submission of a request to his/her educational institution gets an email with didactic and methodical materials according to his/ her sphere of learning (including the downloaded material from the portal of distance learning), which he/she studies independently. Interaction of all participants of an educational process is fully implemented on the basis of the wide use of modern means of communication. This form can be applied in the regions that are fully provided with modern communication techniques.

Realizing the experimental nature of distance learning implementation, taking into account the peculiarities of the project realization, we carried out the research which was aimed at identifying common problems and difficulties that students and teachers implementing distance learning programs can come across. The survey was conducted along with observations and personal conversations, both with students and with teachers.

We received the following survey results interviewing teachers:

• 87% of the teachers were against of distance learning at the initial stages of its implementation.

• 88% of teachers indicated that the introduction of this innovation caused them certain psychological and technical inconveniences associated with reluctance to implement distance learning.

• 67%were reluctant to interact with “virtual students” and use ICT.

• 34% felt anxiety.

• 56% lacked competence in this field.

• 57% were of conventional mindset.

• 78% lacked trust in this form of teaching, outcomes of distance learning (i.e. “distance learning specialists”).

• 34% of teachers had the desire to preserve traditional course organization.

• 45% of respondents mentioned that distance learning would increase amount of unpaid work - (development of course, update, assessment of course assignments, etc.).

We also asked about the nature of difficulties and problems of students and teachers who work in the system of distance learning. We received the following answers: 78% of respondents noted the absence of “real” motivation tools, stimulation and learning management; 45% of teachers mentioned that it was time-consuming to develop content of the course and upload it to the portal; 54% of respondents had difficulties with the identification of a student (hard to determine “who fulfills” the assignments); 90% experienced loss of communication with a student (doesn’t do the assignments, doesn’t contact a teacher); 45% of teachers pointed out the specific nature of some lectures and peculiarities in specialist training and therefore the inability to “place” the content of the course into electronic “wrap”; 76% of respondents stated that they had some difficulties to determine how big the volume of uploaded information should be and also were unaware of the level of achievements, personal accomplishments of a student - 34%.

With the purpose of disciplines correction and responding adequately to emerging problems we reviewed the results of the examinations completed by distance learning students who study Educational Sciences (“Pedagogics”, “History of education”, “Modern educational techniques”, “Educational research methods”, “Ethnopedagogics”, “Introduction to teaching profession”, etc.). The results of expert evaluation have identified the following main students’ problems:

- the lack of integrity and consistency in understanding of knowledge content;

- the lack of consistency in learning the course content;

- inability to see the connection between various pedagogical ideas, concepts, and categories;

- limited understanding of the subject knowledge (predominant reading of lectures, uploaded to the distance learning portal);

- the lack of understanding of basic pedagogical ideas, theories, concepts;

- the lack of vision of the relation between theoretical knowledge and its implementation in practice;

- the absence of self-organization and self-education skills.

The results of the teachers’ survey were supported by responses of students. Students were asked whether the problem was in the organization of learning. 95% of respondents replied positively, meanwhile the nature of the difficulties varied: 45% of students related difficulties to the lack or underdevelopment of the technical base (especially in distant regions); the lack of self-organization skills was identified by 56%; the whole independence in learning subject knowledge also seemed to be a problem - 87%. 54% of interviewed mentioned that they were offered very complex tasks and tasks, where instructions were not clear; tasks requiring additional sources of information - 53%; 23% have noticed sufficient complexity of the materials of lectures; 78% of respondents indicated that the materials of the lectures were in a very contracted form, consequently students needed additional lectures and seminars to systematize acquired knowledge. We want to especially emphasize that a comparative analysis of students who previously studied in colleges and those who studied for a Bachelor’s degree shows that students who hold one degree and had experience studying full-time, are having significantly less difficulties.

To summarize, we should say that analysis of teachers’ and students’ difficulties identified the following objective problems (technological, methodical, psychological), connected with the implementation of distance learning in higher education:

- the absence or underdevelopment of computer bases in distant regions;

- problems with adaptation to distant learning technology, because of its specificity;

- the inability to train some professions with the help of distant learning technology (Physical Education, Music, etc.) because of their peculiarities;

- poor skills of students’ self-education and self-organization;

- the problem of student identification;

- psychological (passivity of a teacher);

- lack of social interaction (in the form of "live" exchange of ideas, opinions, experience);

- the problem of distance course content, etc.

The implementation of any innovation in education (in particular of distance learning) associated with the "resistance to innovation". It happens when teachers and students feel a certain psychological discomfort, generated by the nature of change; the subjects of learning do not have enough information (uncertainty and obscurity cause anxiety), upcoming innovation implies increased amount of work or changes implemented too quickly, emphatically, in an authoritarian form, etc.

Having analyzed Ilyina N.A. research [3], my own experience in this field, the nature of typical difficulties of both students and teachers we have developed a number of guidelines that would ensure the success of innovation:

- It is necessary to diagnose the degree of readiness (psychological, technological, methodological) of the university teaching staff for innovations;

- The teaching staff should clearly know when and what will be implemented, in connection with that it is necessary to conduct a collective analysis of possible options of innovation, have clear sense of the innovation consequences;

- To follow the rules that innovations should be implemented stage by stage, this significantly reduces the risk and potential rejection of innovations;

- It will help if respectable people of the university will encourage, support the change (leading professors, professionals);

- Constantly inform the teaching staff of the university about preparation and implementation of innovations, especially about management innovations (the absence of information leads to gossips);

- To conduct psychological and organizational orientations that will prove stable, consistent and purposeful nature of innovation, allowing to progress in a constantly changing environment;

- To involve the teaching staff and auxiliary personnel working in all departments of the university in implementation of innovations. An employee, who has made a certain contribution to organizational restructuring, becomes a supporter and protector of it;

- When innovation is planned it is necessary to take into account a social risk, i.e. an action plan in a situation of uncertainty, unexpectedness. Risk is a social problem, which requires a lot of efforts and money when the amount of gains and losses is uncertain.

Thus, we believe the problems and difficulties we identified and recommendations we made to overcome them will assist in further development of distance learning technologies.


1. Lavrentyev, G.V., Lavrentyeva, N.B. Innovacionnye obuchajushhie tehnologii v professional'noj podgotovke specialistov. [Innovative educational technologies in professional training].

2. Bondareva, S.G. (2007). Sovremennye informacionnye tehnologii v sisteme vysshego obrazovanija. [Modern information technologies in higher education]. Ust-Kamenogorsk, p.80.

3. Ilyina, N.A. (1985). Otnoshenie k novovvedenijam v proizvodstvennom kollektive. [Relation to innovations in the production staff]: Author’s abstract Candidate of Education. Leningrad.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №4 - 2012

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