Thursday, 1 March 2012

London South Bank University Findings

TEACHING & LEARNING WITH KINDLES (London South Bank University Findings)
This paper lists the key findings of a questionnaire at London South Bank University (LSBU), conducted in July 2011,127 academic staff responded to it.
The objective explored if Kindle type e-reader tablet technology was viewed as sustainable and if it could replace, support, enhance the current blended student learning experience and to identify any other issues or concerns.
The questionnaire set a hypothetical scenario by asking staff to: - Imagine on enrolment all of your students are given a Kindle e-reader preloaded with all of your handouts and course readings for the whole academic year.
Question 1 asked if they would welcome this innovation.
73 would, 17 would not, 19 were unsure.

Question 2 asked if this innovation would support their pedagogy.
73 said it did, 16 said it did not, 19 were unsure.

Question 3 asked if it would it be an advantage for students to have all their handouts and course readings on an e-reader device from enrolment?
75 thought it would, 22 though it would not and 12 were unsure.  

Question 4 asked if having all of their handouts and course readings on an e-reader was an advantage for their style of teaching and learning.
67 thought it was.  22 thought it was not and 18 were unsure.

Question 5 invited academics to state the main advantage/s of e-readers in teaching and learning.  
Responses summarised below:-.
105 commented on the advantages. Most listed more than one advantage and 9 said there was little or no advantage.
·        55 stated “access to information”. This included instant access, all in one place, off-line, on-line, 24/7/365, mobile, portable, lightweight, small size, fitting into student ICT based lifestyle  and having access to essential reading resource all in one place on an e-reader.
·        30 stated “saving resources”. This included a mixture of universal tangible savings for the university, staff, students and the environment, on the supply, management and use of hardcopy books. There is also the related time and cost in business process logistics and locating, sourcing, purchasing, cataloguing, handling, using, managing, storing and disposing of hardcopy books. The less tangible but significant  benefits of less use in teaching and learning of copyright, printing and photocopying systems, paper, PC use, and the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
·        22  stated “audit assurance” This included knowledge the student had all of the core reading matter before teaching started for prep and this reading could be accessed anywhere anytime, that suited a student lifestyle.
·        10 stated “disability support”. This included, the audio read-back feature, ability to change font size, look, and back ground (paper) contrast.

Question 6, invited academics to state the main disadvantage/s of e-readers in teaching and learning.
Responses summarised below:-
104 made comments on the disadvantages, most listed more than one and 9 said there was little or no disadvantage.
·        55 stated “access to information”. This included loss, damage, replacements, alternative, software, hardware, firmware failure and total loss of reading matter.
·        30 stated “logistics”. This included challenges including, finding suitable readings, collecting  readings well in advance of teaching, updating or adding to the readings, exposing students  to too much reading, which may not be relevant to the central topic.
·        47 stated “usability” This included IT knowledge the student (and academic) had of the Kindle technology platform and if it suited a student lifestyle in the classroom.
·        20 stated “technical issues”. This included, the updates, apps, and spam, how the audio read-back feature worked, how the ability to change font size, look, and back ground (paper) contrast was enabled as academics may be called to fix issues in a class if the full student ITC support was not in place.
·        10 were unsure of the copyright status of Kindle content. It was unclear if it content would be covered under a CLA basic licence as it was digital. Would content remain with the student when they had finished the course of study? How would the university clear copyright or reuse the bespoke Kindle reading content?

Question 7 invited academics to state the main advantage for their students of using e-readers when learning.
Responses summarised below:-
97 made comments on the advantages. Most listed more than one advantage and 7 said there was little or no advantage.
·        50 stated “access to information”. This included instant access, all reading in one place, off-line, on-line, 24/7/365, mobile, portable light, small size and fitting into student ICT based lifestyles.
·        26 stated “saving limited resources and being green”. This included saving paper, saving the planet, saving time and less use of other PC machines and less printing and photocopying, saving on purchasing books, using eBooks and not having to use the VLE and having access to essential reading all in one place on an e-reader.
·        17  stated “audit assurance” This included knowledge the student had all of the core reading matter before teaching started for prep and this they could access anywhere anytime, that suited their student lifestyle.
·        12 stated “disability support”. This included, the audio read-back feature, ability to change font size, look, and back ground (paper) contrast.
·        6 stated “innovation”. This was about developing our own intellectual property and subject e-reader content and building some commercial asset resource. 

Question 8 asked if academics thought e-content on a Kindle e-reader is more accessible and suitable for students with disabilities than normal printed hardcopy.
59 thought it more accessible and suitable for students with disabilities 12, thought it was not and 35, did not have a view on which was better. Some thought it was depended on the type of disability, the individual circumstances and the current provision that was inplace.

Question 9 asked if providing student teaching and learning materials on a Kindle e-reader was more sustainable than printing hardcopy teaching and learning materials.
79 thought it more sustainable, 8 thought it was not and 17, did not know which was more sustainable.  

Question 10 asked if they thought e-content on a Kindle e-reader will reduce the amount of paper being consumed in their teaching and learning programmes.
81, thought it would reduce the amount of paper being consumed, 13 did not think it would reduce the paper consumption and 11, were unsure of the impact on paper consumption.

Question 11 asked if academics thought the risk of copyright infringement of e-content is greater if students use Kindle e-readers.  
28 thought the risk was greater. 43 thought it was lower and 35, where unsure if it would make a difference.  

Question 12 asked if issuing students with an e-reader preloaded with all handouts and course readings, at enrolment help student retention.
42 thought it would help retention, 25, thought it would not help retention and 38 did not have an opinion on the question. 

Question 13 asked if issuing an e-reader preloaded with all of the handouts and course readings, at enrolment would help student satisfaction.
73 thought it would help student satisfaction, 5 thought it would not and 30, were unsure if it would make a change in student satisfaction levels.

Question 14, was an invitation to make any comments on using a Kindle e-reader for teaching and learning.
76 responded. Summarised below:-
48 thought using Kindles was a good idea, 45, thought that to work properly the business process would need extra resources and support, 30, suggested alternative technology, such as iPhone, iPads, Smart-phones, laptops, other e-readers, Android tablets and memory sticks.
18 were very critical of using the Kindle in teaching and learning. Some were unsure if it would give any advantage to students, staff or business processes. Existing alternatives already in use (VLE, PCs, laptops, Macs, paper, etc.) and the business processes to update and time release articles were suggested as being more suitable or more cost effective as these were already in use and needed no extra cost, learning or support.

  • Outcomes in this independent LSBU research reflect some other studies into e-readers and Kindle use in universities, colleges and schools.
  • The study at LSBU has a larger academic population (127) and a more critical outcome.
  •  The study is independent and not sponsored.
  • There is significant interest in exploring the concept of using a Kindle or other tablet technology in teaching and learning.  
  • The main advantages seem to be the perceived sustainability, reduction of paper based materials and the ability to hold lots of digital information in one small unit that can be accessed off-line and in most lighting conditions including bright sunshine.
  • The Kindle functions which support visual and audio disability are welcome, no colour screen or video playback function will limit blended learning and student satisfaction. This limitation may be a disadvantage for some students, which currently use a PC, tablet or competing technology. However, the Kindle Fire addresses all these issues.
  • There is interest in exploring the e-reader concept using other student supporting technology in teaching and learning, which may support more diverse media forms and file formats.
  • Supplying a years teaching and learning materials at enrolment received a mixed welcome. While most were happy with the idea, some pointed out this process is already done, on some courses, on the VLE or in hardcopy print, so it may be transferable to a Kindle for a trial.
  • There were concerns that more information in Kindle format may not be read, or even viewed, and unlike a VLE, there is no audit trail on a Kindle reader.
  • There were comments that by using a Kindle as a core personal student document repository, we may be sending out the subliminal message that students did not need to read hardcopy books, journals, see multimedia presentations, use the library or read around the subject.
  • It was suggested that too much Kindle content and Kindle reading, may limit extra reading outside the Kindle use and this would not help students develop good study skills in reading around the subject.
  • On some courses, a timed release of information on a Kindle was considered a good idea. Some topical and dynamic subject like law would need constant Kindle content updating with each new example of case law, to be at the cutting edge and compete with the VLE. This would be an additional overhead.
  • The VLE logs visits, which the Kindle does not, so there is no way to measure use of the e-reader content or the time spent viewing content as one of the  measures of student engagement.
  • Copyright of suitable academic content was a constant concern. Media shifting to a Kindle format and finding copy in the Kindle format was raised as a challenge.
  • The availability of some texts that maybe out of print, hard to find, trace and clear the copyright in time for the deadline for bulk uploading to the Kindle was seen as an obstacle. Amazon may be able to help, but this was an unproven concept and may add extra cost.
  • New deadlines, business processes and schedules would be needed so all content could be converted and bulk uploaded in time for enrolment and distribution.
  • The copyright issues, of Kindle content were unclear. Are Kindles covered for their teaching and learning content under existing University licenses or  would this be an extra cost or an area of opportunity  for development was raised a number of times. These issue are a unquantified, unforecast business process, overhead and cost on top of the cost of the Kindle and basic ICT support
  • The cost or need of Kindle, insurance Kindle back-up, Kindle content and local support was of concern. This was because Kindles would take up resources or move resources or change business processes, which may make extra administration and on-going maintenance and back-up systems. .
  • Loss or damage to the Kindle was an area where it was unclear. This was because the student may lose access to critical information, if there was no data backup, hot-spare Kindle, method, process or resources, such as a central Kindle storage sever. This may result in training, extra cost, unused resources and more copyright licence costs.
  • Some academics were unsure of the functions of a Kindle and some requested a loan of a Kindle and a staff Kindle, user support group and expert hands-on user sessions. This would be another issue with a resource and cost implication.
  • The issue of Wi-Fi for downloads and Wi-Fi capacity was raised as a possible issue. Would x number of new Kindle Wi-Fi users be a resource issue?
  • There was concern if a Kindle monochrome single colour screen, was the right platform. Or if an iPad, laptop, notepad, tablet, phone, android or another e-reader enabled device would be more suitable as they could show video and colours. Some also have a touch screen function.
  • Some academics questioned if a Kindle e-reader was sustainable as it used resources in its construction and needed on-going electricity for power.
  • Some see Kindles as very sustainable as it saves paper, printing and photocopying and the Kindle has a rechargeable battery that can last for 3 weeks of constant use.
  • The question on student retention was interesting. Forty percent of academics that replied thought it would help student retention. Almost a quarter thought it would not help student retention. Over a third did not have a view on if it would improve student retention. Clearly this is an area of further work and development as retention is dependent upon a number of issues.
  • Student satisfaction was interesting. Most academics thought that being given a preloaded Kindle at enrolment would improve student satisfaction amongst the students that did not have a Kindle. If a student already has a Kindle, then there should be a method to upload content to that Kindle. It was noted that some students, wanted to get a head start on reading degree related matter. There were a few academics that were concerned about the content, quality and usability of the content. For example, some file formats may not read back, so a student with a visual disability and may not be fully supported via their Kindle.
  • Some academics raised the question how we would support Kindles, if they got damaged and asked if we would give cash or kind, to students who already had a Kindle and did not need one? What provision would be made for adding content to a replacement Kindle or if a student had their own Kindle?
  • It would be interesting to follow this work up and ask the similar questions to students, which owned and did not own a Kindle to  find out if they, would welcome such innovation and the use of Kindle e-readers as their mobile teaching, learning document repository and reading platform.

The unique LSBU research looks at the feedback from 127 people. This is less than a quarter of the academic population. Therefore the sample size is too small for any conclusive results. However the work does raise a number of issues, concerns and challenges, which need to be fully investigated and addressed for successful implementation of a future test project in any educational institute.
Our students were not consulted in this work, so it would be interesting to seek the student opinion and compare and contrast the data to seek any correlations and synergy.
There is clearly much more work to do in this area of research into using any Kindle e-reader tablet type technology in teaching and learning. If the outcome for students is also positive, then a Kindle strategy and user group needs to be established and maintained. Unfortunately, Universities are limited in their budgets and may seek a sponsor in this area or consider shared services for future innovations. This matter has now become more complex as new Kindle e-readers have come to market. This included a colour touch screen Android tablet, which can use multimedia functions and has an IPad type look and feel. It is also interesting to note that 7” colour touch screen Android tablet PCs can be obtained for around £45 and this makes the deployment of giving an e-reader to every student affordable, for most courses. However they still need content and data. The action of introducing any new technology has some clear quantifiable challenges and consequents, as well as some unquantifiable unforeseen outcomes. These may be advantages for the some and disadvantageous for others. Changing any business process will impact upon existing systems, commitments, stakeholders and the attractiveness of that university, to its current and potential students. In the case of any university considering this type of tablet technology, needs a clear cost/benefit analysis, a costed endorsed strategy, with academic approval before making any investment in replacing or changing the status quo proven pedagogic systems with any portable tablet Wi-Fi e-reader device. 

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