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Abstract

This paper investigates whether the selective use of technology can begin to overcome the challenge of large cohort teaching and deliver an enhanced student learning experience. It describes the initial development and evaluation of a campus-based management course taught to 270 third year engineering undergraduates at The University of Manchester. The course is structured around weekly keynote lectures, supplemented with extensive use of a virtual learning environment (VLE) and key Web 2.0 applications.

The preliminary findings are that technology is not a panacea: face-to-face contact with teaching staff remains the priority for most students. Nevertheless, the VLE was found to improve the student learning experience provided that

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    Use of technology does not reduce face-to-face teaching time;
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    Teaching faculty acknowledges that students are, for the most part, highly strategic learners, engaging deeper with those technology tools that help them achieve their desired course outcomes;
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    Close attention is paid to learning design, aligning technology tools with the desired learning outcomes.

Further work is now required to explore more effectively the use of the VLE and Web 2.0 as a vehicle for promoting collaborative learning. In addition, the authors will be redesigning course activities, both assessed and unassessed, to start to address the more lofty ambition of moving students from an acquisitive to a participative model of learning.

Practitioner Notes

What is already known about this topic

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    There is an ongoing debate about the effectiveness of learning technology in enhancing the student learning experience.
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    There are a number of published case studies describing and evaluating the effectiveness of VLEs in enhancing student learning across a range of disciplines, the majority of which involve small- to medium-sized cohorts.
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    Learning technology can be used to achieve more constructivist pedagogical principles.

What this paper adds

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    A well-conducted case study of the use of learning technology to enhance large cohort teaching.
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    A critical review of the literature on the use of learning technology to enhance student learning.
  • • 
    An empirical contribution to the debate on whether learning technology can enhance the student learning experience.

Implications for practice and/or policy

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    Technology is not a panacea to enable higher education institutions to do more with less.
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    Technology can enhance the student learning experience provided that it does not reduce face-to-face teaching time.
  • • 
    In utilising learning technology, close attention should be paid to learning design, aligning technology tools with the desired learning outcomes.