Aula Virtual

A Look at Technology in the Classroom in Mexico

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During our time teaching in Mexico, we have surveyed our students about a variety of topics, the results of which I will share bit by bit as I begin to delve into the data. To begin with I looked at the responses of the students from our interdisciplinary elective course on Sustainability from the spring of 2014 in relation to the use of technology in the classroom.1)There were 90 students, principally from three different degree programs. In total we collected survey responses from 76 of them (though some questions were left blank), and it is likely that the non-responses were NOT random (particularly relevant for this technology discussion since the survey was online). I will look more carefully at the sample composition later.

I doubt there is anyone out there that disputes that technological competence is essential for success in the current and future job market and should be a focus at all levels of education. The students here agreed: 100% of them thought that "being competent in using technology" was "important" or "very important" for their careers. Only 14% of our students didn't have their own laptop/tablet or access to a computer at home and in general they noted that they were comfortable using the online learning platform (Aula Virtual)2)The university uses Moodle which is run completely independently of course and student registrations. and completing online assignments.

For our class, we utilized the Aula Virtual (see below image) at what I would consider an average level for a university course in the USA, but this was not an online course, nor a hybrid-online, nor was technology a focus of the course at all.3)For example we posted PDFs of PowerPoint and readings, had quizzes online, turned in some assignments online and maintained course information and a calender online. Yet the students found this to be an unusual level of technological deployment:

  • All but one student thought we had "more" or "a lot more" online work than their other courses.
  • In fact 16% had never previously had a course with online work and a further 65% had only previously had online work "once and a while".
  • Unsurprisingly, only 10% of the students had had more than 3 courses which utilized the Aula Virtual in any way.4)These were students who had completed either two or three years of study by this point.
Aula Virtual

Students' Technological Competence is NOT Thanks to their Studies

One could hardly dare draw universal conclusions about Mexican higher education overall or even for our university just from a small survey with one class's worth of students-but the results do strongly suggest that the higher education system is NOT doing its part to arm the average student with 21st century technological competence. These youths have clearly acquired a comfort in using computers and the internet on their own because online work is far too infrequent for the university to have played any role in their development of technological competence. Clearly, a more active promotion of technology in the average course is sorely needed, yet what I sense instead is a complacency with what has already been done.5)This would include having a computer lab, (slow) internet on campus, and one time forcing faculty to take a 6 month course on using the online learning platform (which was apparently totally ineffectual, but don't get me started on that).

Aaron Redman is the founder of Achieving Sustainability and what passes for an administrator in these parts. Currently he is working on his Sustainability PhD at ASU while raising a baby daughter and taking advantage of nap time to foment discussions on this here blog.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. There were 90 students, principally from three different degree programs. In total we collected survey responses from 76 of them (though some questions were left blank), and it is likely that the non-responses were NOT random (particularly relevant for this technology discussion since the survey was online). I will look more carefully at the sample composition later.
2. The university uses Moodle which is run completely independently of course and student registrations.
3. For example we posted PDFs of PowerPoint and readings, had quizzes online, turned in some assignments online and maintained course information and a calender online.
4. These were students who had completed either two or three years of study by this point.
5. This would include having a computer lab, (slow) internet on campus, and one time forcing faculty to take a 6 month course on using the online learning platform (which was apparently totally ineffectual, but don't get me started on that).
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