ANALYSIS OF SECOND SOCIOLOGY COURSE QUESTIONNAIRE

The sociology course was transmitted from Essex to SSEES over a unicast link using RAT and VIC. At SSEES the audio was played out through speakers, and the VIC image (of the lecturer) was projected. Between 12 and 18 fps were transmitted from Essex. A teaching assistant at SSEES displayed copies of the lecturer's slides on an OHP, so the students had two visual sources of information - the lecturer and the slides.

The sociology course ran for two terms: the results presented here are from the evaluation session at the end of the second term.

There were 12 respondents, between the ages of 19 and 23, 6 female and 6 male. All had attended at least 4 of the lectures.

The questionnaire addressed the following areas:

The answers are followed by some additional observations and recommendations for running future courses of this nature.
 
 

Audio Issues

Asked to rate the quality of the audio in the lectures on a scale of 1-5, where 1 = very good and 5 = very poor, the mean rating was 3.67. The range of responses was between 3 and 5.

Asked to rate the overall adequacy of the audio throughout the lectures on a scale of 0-100, where 0 = audio met none of the needs of the lectures and 100 = audio met all of the needs of the lectures, the mean score was 47. The range was 16-77.

The students were asked whether they would have preferred to have been able to alter the volume at which they heard the lecturer. 5 responded Yes, 4 responded No, and 3 stated that they did not mind. Explanatory comments provided by those who answered Yes included that the sound was often muffled, or booming, and that the teaching assistant often had to talk over the lecture because the quality was too poor to make out. Those who answered No or Don't Mind made the distinction between volume and quality, stating that the volume was generally okay, but that the quality of the signal itself made it hard to listen to e.g. "a loud sound is not better than a low crackling sound."

Video Issues

Asked to rate the quality of the video in the lectures on scale of 1-5, where 1 = very good and 5 = very poor, the mean rating was 3.41. The range was 2-5.

Asked to rate the overall adequacy of the video throughout the lectures on a scale of 0-100, where 0 = video met none of the needs of the lectures and 100 = video met all of the needs of the lectures, the mean score was 50.58. The range was 4 - 86.

Other Issues

The students were asked to rate their level of involvement in the lectures, compared to FTF setting, on a scale of 1-5 where 1 = A lot greater than FTF and 5 = Less than FTF [NB. Should have read 'A lot less than...']. The mean score was 4, the range between 2 and 5. Asked to explain why the level of involvement was different compared to a FTF lecture, lower levels of involvement were explained as being due to having no actual contact/interaction with the lecturer, finding it easier to 'drift away', and missing things due to the sound quality. A higher level of involvement was accounted to the fact that the lecture could be listened to while taking notes - there was no need maintain eye contact to prove that attention was being paid.

Asked if there had been a video link from SSEES to Essex, would this have affected their level of involvement in the course, 4 answered Yes, 4 answered No, and 2 answered Don't Know. Those who answered Yes explained that it would have been interesting to interact with the lecturer(s) and useful to be able to have asked questions (especially in the final session - which was a specific Q&A session). Those who answered No explained that this would have made it just like any other course, and that 'students at SSEES ask stupid questions'! One person (who answered Don't Know) stated that he would have felt uncomfortable using the technology.

The students were asked to agree or disagree with a number of statements about their expectations of the method of delivering the course before it started. Four of the statements were negative, three were positive, and one was neutral. As can be seen from the results below, opinion was mixed with respect to the negative statements. Most agreement was expressed to the statement that the method would be unreliable due to technical failure. However, bearing in mind the result that 7 out of 9 students stated that they did not know what to expect, it may be the case that the 'expectations' revealed here are tempered by actual experience. With respect to the positive statements, the students had, on the whole, expected the method to be interesting and to add variety to their learning experience, but had not expected the method to be an adequate alternative to FTF lectures.

Negative statements:

Before the course started, I thought the method of delivering lectures would:

Positive statements:

Before the course started, I thought the method of delivering lectures would:

Neutral statement: Asked whether there was a difference between what they expected this method of delivery to be like and what it was actually like, 10 students responded that it met some of their expectations and 1 claimed that it met all expectations.

The students were asked whether they would consider attending another course like this. 3 answered Yes, they thought was an adequate alternative to FTF; 2 answered No, they would prefer to travel if possible; 1 answered No, even if it meant they couldn't take the course they wanted to; 3 answered they didn't know; and 3 answered Other. In this latter category, the students explained that it would depend on the course being offered.

Asked for additional comments/suggestions for improvements, requests were made for videos of the lectures to be made at Essex in case the quality of the connection is bad, and for FTF contact with the lecturers at some point.

 

Additional observations/recommendations

In the end-of-term session, many of the grievances aired were to do with course factors rather than technological ones. For example, a prime complaint was that SSEES did not have access to the recommended texts at the University of London library. They also resented the fact that they never got a 'shot at' the lecturer 'live', and would have greatly appreciated a visit. It is likely that attitudes towards the course could be improved by ensuring that the students meet the lecturer at least once FTF, and by ensuring that recommended texts are actually available to the students.

In comparison with the first questionnaire results, the mean ratings given for audio and video quality and adequacy were lower. In interpreting this result, it must be remembered that there were fewer respondents in the second questionnaire compared to the first, and also that the nature of the final session (a question and answer panel session with all the lecturers), which was different to the 'normal' style, may have affected perceptions.