Student's experience and expectation from the E-learning platform

(VLU29/9/2021) – E-learning has become an emerging trend to help the universities continue their lecturing activities during the social distancing caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it is undeniable that E-learning still has particular setbacks that need educators, lecturers, and students to solve together.

Currently, teaching and learning with the E-learning model have become quite popular among universities. It is an obvious trending countermeasure that allows universities to continue their teaching activities once halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and Van Lang University is not an exception. VLU's goals are not simply to maintain the regular activities but to adopt new technology, integrate into the international context, enhance teaching quality and brand name, and redefine the University's position in a new phase. As the learners are approaching E-learning on a more extensive and deeper scale, they acquire significant benefits. In contrast, there are also standing challenges that require the lecturers and the University to overcome together. This paper is a practical study based on a survey of 505 first-to-fifth-year students at Van Lang University. The surveyees are among the first-to-fifth-year student group, which have experienced E-learning activities for many semesters and in many courses. The survey also consisted of an intensive interview to better understand the students' experience and propose relevant solutions.

Experiencing the E-learning platform

Van Lang University's E-learning platform has been under development and improvement in the last several years. Initially, it was a portal for lecturers to upload course descriptions to provide more studying resources to the students while permitting the University to adopt new functions related to education quality assurance. However, the University later has made the website an official supporting tool for the University's training activities. Van Lang University's E-learning platform has been efficiently exploited in the last few years and has become an irreplaceable part of the Learning Management System (LMS). Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, it enabled the teaching and learning activities at the University to take place regularly and productively. Apart from the mentioned functions, the University also makes the most of the LMS's available features to allow VLU lecturers and students to achieve their teaching and learning goals.

vlu trai nghiem hoc e learning bA student study on the online platform during the social distancing

When the students attend the E-learning platform, they can engage many considerable values, which results in their major satisfaction (including satisfied and highly satisfied). Notably, 47.8% of them said that they could take the initiative in their study, 46.5% agreed that they prefer the flexibility in studying schedules, 38.5% admitted being able to come up with a logical studying plan. In comparison, 34.7% said they could acquire and enhance a particular skill set, 34.3% were satisfied with the diversified sources of learning material, and 30.1% felt more self-confident. Many students expressed that E-learning offered them flexibility in time, reduced the commuting burdens, allowed them to watch the lecture's playbacks, and provided them with a more significant source of assignments.

Moreover, Tran Vu Bao, Finance – Banking student of course 26, said: "The exciting thing about E-learning platform is that I could analyze my upcoming lectures beforehand. As a result,  I could acquire the initiative in my studying schedules, then researching relevant information from many sources."

Despite the mentioned advantages of E-learning platforms, many students ran into difficulties proven by their feedback in the survey. 74.5% said that they could not access and utilize the available facilities of the University, while 62.5% found it difficult to connect with classmates and teammates. Moreover, 66.1% complained that they could not practice efficient communication with their classmates and lecturers, and 50% admitted that they could not work in groups as efficiently as expected. Further to the limitation in facilities engagement, Dang Thai Dinh Dung – an Interactive Design student of course 26, said: "If I attend the E-learning platform instead of going to the art studios, I could only acquire my lecturers' feedback for my works in the following session. In contrast, if I study at the art studios, my lecturers could give feedback at the same session; thus, we could move on to the next lesson in the next period without the hassle of commenting on the works from the previous session. Moreover, if  I study at the studios, I could observe and learn from other students' skills, which helped me improve myself more prominently. Meanwhile, if I study at home, I can only access the available works online and analyze everything by myself; hence, it would be less efficient than studying at the studios. Last but not least, I also prefer to study at the studios to get more interaction with other students and lecturers."

Nguyen Thanh Hoai – a Pharmacy student of course 25, uttered: "I found it a bit difficult to take my exam online because tight time limits and/or long questions could affect the outcome. I suggest the lecturers grant additional time for long questions."

Some students regretted studying at home because they could not utilize the University's library. They said there were many valuable reading materials available at the library. Moreover, the study space there offered outstanding experience in comparison with studying on the E-learning platform.

Furthermore, many students shared the same reaction that E-learning provided them with new experiences, yet taking away the richness and excitement of the learning process while making them feel isolated due to the lack of direct interactions. The percentages for those answers were 41.1%, 44.3%, and 43.1%, respectively. However, there was a unique piece of feedback from Nguyen Thanh Hoai. He said: "I sometimes feel lonely because my classmates avoid volunteering to answer the lecturer's questions." When the lecturer raised a problem, a few or even none of my classmates contributed to the lesson unless that section was a graded one.

Students' expectation

The students' feeling of isolation or standstill resulted from the lack of engaging experience from the lecturers and classmates. When they ran into technical problems or difficulties, they preferred to have better and faster attention from the lecturers and the University. Therefore, per their suggestions for improvement, more than 70% of students demanded enhancements in the following criteria, including assistance from department/ faculty (76.8%), enrichment in learning materials (71.9%), regular interaction between lecturers and students (71.1%). Remarkably, the students' inquiries mainly were related to the lecturers' attention, prompt service from the supporting departments, and a most favorable environment for their studies and self-studies on learning materials websites. Accordingly, most students expected the lecturers to improve the diversity of learning activities to make them more attractive. In general, the students recommended combining the E-learning platform with other experiential studying activities or enhancing the learner's interactions through assignments requiring teamwork.

vlu trai nghiem hoc e learning cInterviews on E-learning experience between the research group and Van Lang University students.

Dang Thai Dinh Dung – an IT student of course 26, said: "I suggest the lecturers provide more practical examples and  grant us additional websites with related materials to the lessons allowing us to analyze ourselves instead of learning from the lesson's powerpoints." He recommended his lecturers deliver hands-on case studies reflecting the actual situations of what they were learning because examples based on outdated data would be complex for the students to comprehend. In the case of Hoai and his major in Healthcare, he sincerely desired to study on campus soon; thus, he could attend the experimental and practical sessions to avoid later difficulties.

More specially, the students wished their lecturers could communicate more efficiently on specific channels to provide sufficient explainations and evaluations for their participation and contributions in the process.

On the technical ground, it is necessary to maintain good internet connections. It was also the reason the students were constantly in need of supports from the IT Department. It is crucial to sufficiently keep the learners' ease of access to help relieve them from the worries of technical problems.

Another exciting fact was that most students admitted the E-learning platform could promote the learner's initiative toward their studies. Still, they preferred the University to improve the interactions with lecturers, class management, and learner networking quality. It could be said that the students required more assistant to scope with the digitalized studying environment.

Although the E-learning platform had its particular advantages, especially amidst the pandemic outbreak, more students thought it was essential for the University, the lecturers, and the students themselves to thrive for improvements to make this studying model efficient.

Several suggestions

Companion: students demand their lecturers' companion on various channels and platforms to provide sufficient explanations and supports when needed. Besides, many students wish they could form groups to interact and study together on specific grounds.

The University's assistance: The University needs to guarantee the connections and server capacity to prevent disruptions of the E-learning platform. Numerous students suggest the University reserve specific rooms for online learning equipped with excellent internet connection and sufficient hardware to create a learner-friendly studying environment.

Excess of one's limit: Most students prefer to study on campus promptly to get direct interaction with lecturers (as The Huy's ideas) and friends; access the library, art studios, and labs to "improve their practical skills" (as Thanh Hoai's suggestions). On the other hand, most students thought that the E-learning platform and combining studying models such as blended learning was a general trend; thus, they enjoyed the new exciting experience. Many said it is necessary to possess positive thinking and the adapting ability to new situations and circumstances. They said, "E-learning is a trending studying model. We need to adapt to it because it would enhance your self-studying skills. Self-studying should help you acquire new knowledge and enhance your understanding" (as Vu Bao's opinions). "If I have to choose between contact learning and e-learning, I will obviously select the contact learning model. However, judging on the current situation, E-learning is not a challenge but an inevitable change. You never know when you need to learn new things, given that you have already been in the labor market. As a simple comprehension of the current situation, we do not have to go to the University to study physically with other students but staying at home to do the same activities. It would grant us more ownership to our schedules and allow us to research relevant materials online while attending the online classes." – said Dinh Dung.

Conclusion

Either learning model would provide challenges and the feeling of isolation. This fact is inevitable because studying is the process of acquiring new things to replace the outdated ones. The sense of isolation when studying on the E-learning platform escalated due to the barriers in many forms. The students' feedback for existing challenges and their recommendations would be the basis for the University and its lecturers to pay better attention; and develop a friendly, interactive, and efficient learning environment at our Van Lang University.

Van Lang Community always wishes to share the same ideology in the jorney to conquer the upcoming digitalized era. We make sure our students can overcome the loneliness, stand up to grab the chances, interact and share with a broader community, and reaffirm our University's training quality.

 

Dr. Huynh Ba Loc & MSc. Le Thu Hang
Faculty of Fundamental Sciences


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