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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited
Essential IT Skills
The College of Business at Colorado State University (CSU) has worked with Electric Paper to design and implement e-learning for essential IT skills. The model uses interactive multimedia learning and assessment software, developed by Electric Paper, as the primary delivery vehicle whilst using students from the computer information systems department as classroom learning facilitators.
The Essential IT Skills course covers seven areas of core computing skills:
introduction of IT;
presentations and e-mail; and
The course is part of the core curriculum for the College of Business (COB) which all students must complete in their freshman (first) year.
The COB has been providing a course of this sorts for 15 years, and now supports 1,400 students annually. For the first ten of those year, the programme was called Computers in Business and was delivered using a large classroom lecture and lab breakouts taught by graduate teaching assistants. The staff required to administer the programme included one full-time member of faculty, two adjunct faculty, six GTAs and two student office assistants.
One of the problems in running the programme was finding GTAs who were both motivated to teach and could perform in the classroom. Good instructors were lost in the annual turnover.
In 1997, Gene Lewis, assistant professor in the department, developed an eLearning model – Essential IT Skills – which used interactive multimedia learning and assessment software as the primary learning and assessment tools. The format is "self-paced with milestones". Students are provided with the software on CD-ROM along with a custom course book written by Lewis. The students can move at their own pace through the lessons but must meet all the milestones. An on-screen assessment is used to measure student performance after each of the seven course modules.
In 2001, Professor Lewis reviewed the programme and decided to update it by working with Electric Paper to perfect the model. The resulting, refined model is very similar and is delivered again on CD-ROM, providing over 80 hours of interactive materials, with built-in assessment tasks. The coverage is broader and the overall programme now includes a project so that students actually get to use the skills they are developing. This project involves the students in creating a basic business plan as they move through the various course modules.
The current staffing for the revised programme includes one faculty member to manage the programme, one GTA to manage the learning facilitators, six undergraduate student facilitators and one office assistant. The team has made cost comparisons of the old, traditional model and the e-learning model showing that significant cost savings result – in the region of $60k annually.
The cost to the student has not changed – and the students get a perpetual license, entitling them to outright ownership of the software – so that they can refer to it subsequently as a reference work.
The overall result is that a standardised, high quality programme is delivered at lower cost to the same numbers of students. Students can learn conveniently at their own pace and in a way that suits their preferred learning style, and their preferred lifestyle.