Yusuf Mahbubul Islam's MIDT Journey

Becoming a Researcher in IDT

I have been teaching at tertiary or university level since 1978. I still remember the preparation pains I took for my first class. It took me three hours to prepare for a one-hour class. I was afraid the students may ask me a question that I could not answer. Since that time, it has always been a challenge for me to get students in my class to learn. I have forever been experimenting with methods on my own with students of all ages.
It is only when I started MIDT that I realized that there is so much theory and research behind how people learn - reading course material I also understood what works in any given situation is subject to research. As part of my first MIDT course, HMID5003 "Principles and Practices of Instructional Design" the nine events of Gagne showed how a lesson could be broken up into stages of delivery - a kind of taxonomy of a lesson plan. Although difficult to follow all the nine events during a lesson an instructional designer should enable teachers to follow the parts that they want or need to. To personally understand how an instructional designer should think, I designed an English language class for one of my assignments. To help me link all nine events in my mind to a practical lesson I prepared the mind map shown above (to enlarge, please click on the figure). The next challenge for me was to try to fit some of these events in my own face-to-face lectures at my current university. The next logical question that popped up in my mind was how do I know what works and what doesn't? How could I find out whether students were authentically learning or just memorizing - given the prevalent rote-learning culture in Bangladesh?

The next course helped to answer this question somewhat. Prof Ed Robeck introduced us to HMIR5103 "Research in Instructional Design and Technology (IDT)". He made us examine the parts of existing research papers on IDT. This was like looking at the final product and working backwards to find out what work was necessary to arrive at the final product. The task was my first introduction to IDT research and how to do citations. I also discovered that a lot of current research was on the effects of the use of Web 2.0 for educational purposes. The position paper on Web 2.0 that I did for HMLT5203 "Applying Theories of Learning to Instructional Technology" added with ideas on Blended Learning from Professor Bonk's book, "The World is Open" in the course HMID6303 "Current Trends and Issues in Instructional Technology" led me to think about the current topic for my research work - how to use Wikis (a Web 2.0 product) to support face-to-face classroom learning.

The problem I was faced with was that the Master's students for one of my technical graduate courses (e-government) were shying away from the design of technology application (a course requirement) - they would rather stick to learning the operation of technology and generally extend applications that were done as case studies in class, they would not venture into converting other applications from their experience. As a course requirement, by the end of the course, the students should be able to design unseen e-government applications. During the literature survey, I realized that I somehow need to get students to reflect on the use of technology. Many researchers reported that use of wiki to support classroom teaching may get students to reflect - if wiki-based assignments were structured appropriately. The next question was therefore how should the wiki be structured?

A researcher warned that wiki participation by students is not automatic - students cannot be left to their own devices and be expected to participate. Each wiki session must not only be planned in detail, or scripted, to achieve participation, as much as possible all assessments should be wiki based. This is where the course HMOA5403 "Online Instructional Assessment" helped. I had designed a wiki based assessment (assessment1, assessment2) for one of my tasks. This gave me ideas on how to use wiki-based-assessment to support the face-to-face class. So I took a bold step and decided to allocate 70% of the course grade to wiki-based-assessment. Each face-to-face class or session was followed up by wiki based tasks. The students were started off with simple tasks. To give students additional opportunities for reflection, most classroom tasks were repeated in the wiki. The simplest of wiki tasks consisted of documenting what was done in class. Marks were given for proper documentation. Other tasks in the wiki consisted of challenging and defending e-government applications. This mixture of blended class design was delivered to the 3rd batch of Masters students and the results compared with the previous 2nd batch of students. At the end of each course, the students were asked about their own perception about their abilities as designers of e-government systems in an online survey. The differences in the responses from the two batches shown in the two figures shown. The figure above shows the response by the 3rd batch.

The figure on the left shows the response of the previous or the 2nd batch of students who were not given the blended class treatment. There is degree of shift in the perception of the students - from 2.67 to 4.1 (averages calculated on the basis of a Likert scale of 1 - 5). From my own point of view conducting the blended lessons was hard work - each student had to be followed up to ensure adequate participation in the wiki. It was however one of the most satisfying courses of my life. The entire research work is reported in the thesis. I am grateful to my supervisor, Dr Ravichandran Purushothaman, for guiding me throughout the research work, to OUM (Open University Malaysia), the organizers, my colleagues for their comments and support throughout the course and Prof Abtar for designing and facilitating the purely online course.

Given the success of the blended classes, I now conduct all my classes in a blended mode. The face-to-face classes are followed by assignments and assessments in a course wiki. My students seem to be happy! Over the summer I conducted four courses in this manner. Based on student evaluations at the end of the semester, I received the letter below from my Vice Chancellor, Prof Aminul Islam.
In the three undergraduate courses, and one graduate course, CSE332, CSE321, CSE321Lab and CSE504 the students gave me 96.04%, 94.44%, 95.23% and 90%. The letter neatly rounds off the learning and feedback from application of the MIDT course, Alhamdulillah!

The future?
The course HMIC5503 "Managing Intellectual Capital" made us work very hard to understand the value of innovation. For task 9 in the course, I produced an Intellectual Capital Statement for a company that I am involved with. Just before the time that I joined MIDT this company had come up with an innovative distant education product for developing countries. Working with a colleague at MIDT, I therefore put together a paper on this innovative distance education delivery method for a developing country like Bangladesh. This method uses mobiles as an interactivity tool with video lessons that can be aired on TV or watched on DVD.

Last but not least, the technology class at MIDT was taken by Dr Ravichandran Purushothaman who guided us to build an online website as part of the course HMTT6003 "Instructional Technology Development Tools". Although the website assignment submitted was necessarily simple, I did learn much about how to handle technology and how interfaces are important to engage the user. The ideas presented by Dr Ravi helped me improve my own course CSE332 on Software Engineering at Daffodil International University.

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