Interactive Technology: Enhancing Business Students’ Content Literacy

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 83 ( 2013 ) 332 – 336

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Hafize Keser Ankara University, Turkey doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.06.065

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World Conference on Educational Technology Researches – WCETR2012

Interactive Technology: Enhancing Business Students’ Content

Literacy

Caroline Akhras

Notre Dame University, Zouk Mosbeh, Lebanon

Abstract

Technology seems to have defined this generations’ persona. It follows that integrating technology into higher education courses is imperative. Educators understand the impact information communication technology has on students and as such can capitalize on students’ experience with technology to incorporate WEB 2.0 tools. Studies have shown that incorporating interactive WEB 2.0 technology has positive effects on student performance. This case study proves that integration on a collaborative site builds on content area literacy skills. The sample was drawn from two undergraduate business courses. Recommendations based on the results and limitations were made.

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.

Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Hafize Keser Ankara University, Turkey Keywords: Content Literacy, Collaboration, E-learning, Web 2.0, Blogs, Public Space, 24/7;

Corresponding Author: Dr. Caroline Akhras. Tel.: +00-961-3-256-694

E-mail address: cakhras@ndu.edu.lb 1. Introduction

Information literacy is a substantial component in the development of success in the highly competitive business environment. Communication and information literacy single out the leading business person. Third millennium education is interdependent on technology. It is rudimentary: sign-up and sign in. Across the years of Higher Education in the Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Business undergraduate and graduate students are asked to develop business case studies, research papers, critical analysis, group projects, and oral presentations as such using content area literacy skills. Many prove to be incompetent. Students taking any of the business courses are expected to understand word problems, comprehend complex text, and communicate their own ideas and emotions. Again, many face uncertainty avoidance. Digital media is shaping a new emergent literacy in the developed and developing world (Mihai, Stanciu, & Ofelia, 2011; Akhras, 2012a; Blanchard & Moore, 2010; Wasik, 2009). More than half of online youth create content; nineteen percent keeps a blog; thirty-eight percent of the youth read blogs; more than half of online youth download music; and thirty-three percent download video (Lenhardt & Madden, 2005). It holds that developing literacy skills--listening, speaking, reading, and writing--seems to be very much related to technology. Opportunities abound.

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2.Literature Review

In this case study, sign up for E-support to build content literacy skills.

Faster technology, access to online information, and the exponential growth of knowledge trigger the need to explore new pedagogical approaches for helping students learn how to navigate and select reliable resources of information for their field of education. It is held that the need to instill college level literacy skills is imperative (Ferris, 2012; Berube, 2011; Berger & Trexler, 2010; Newby, Stepich, Lehman, & Russell 2007): Students ought to be adept in reading, writing, listening, and speaking to acquire and retain knowledge. Among those skills, information literacy is needed in the contemporary environment; it has been found that self-directed business achievement is related to mastering literacy skills (Henderson, Nunez-Roderiguez, & Caseri, 2011: Fluck, 2010). Moreover, implementing college level skills creates new opportunities to develop teamwork and apply acquired knowledge across a wider sphere (Collins & Halverson, 2009; Borich, 2007). Collaboration has been found to be essential in the current culture of globalization, connecting the educational force of peer influence to course content on blogs, virtual classrooms, and discussion forums (Akhras, 2012a; Akhras, 2012b; Hsu & Wang, 2011; Addams Woodbury, Addams, 2010). Students’ acquisition of college level skills transforms the classroom experience bridging knowledge banks and generating advanced knowledge rather than creating a stalemate. The General Education principles in the curriculum (Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2007) embody the multidisciplinary skills required by the current generation (Whittaker 2007).

It is held that some university students tend to perceive that communication courses are distinct and separate from their chosen discipline (Dinkelman, Aune, Nonecke, 2010). To be a professional and competently function in the business marketplace, business people ought to be able to communicate and think critically in the field as they apply technical and scientific skills related to their discipline. However, the acquisition of the ability to define a problem, identify resources, propose alternative solutions, write concisely, debate, and orally present the project learnt in the communication course often remains compartmentalized. Educators tend to think that their students make the connections between the courses themselves, and that students have extended the skills acquired in one course to another (Morse, 2010). It seems that young adults around the world have difficulty applying interdisciplinary skills resisting traditional reading and writing activities even though around 24 million youths are busy, right now, creating online content (Brozo & Puckett, 2010; Wood, Pilonieta, & Blanton, 2009; Evolving/Education, 2005). In the digital age, youth dedicates more time to accessing digital media-information than information from traditional printed texts; this marked change has been a factor correlated with their negative reading achievement whereby “younger Americans read less and read less well… 58% of the middle and high school students use other media while reading” (Office of Research and Analysis, NEA, 2007, p. 5). It is held that their consistent multi-tasking has contributed to young Americans short time-attention and their reduced participation in complex reading activities (United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2008). Given that the digital media seem to have created its own culture for tech-savvy internet users, it seems logical to use this vantage point to support literacy and learning.

Blogging--web logging--has become a very popular space where young people are interactive writing their diary in public, in front of the world (Shirky, 2008; Hanson, 2007). Blogging is seen by many as one of the most popular embodiments of freedom of speech on the internet since users are allowed to upload texts voicing their point of issues or writing their personal narrative or making a resounding judgment or assessment related to their personal experiences. Bloggers engage in creating and sharing content quite easily once they are on the internet; sometimes remixing the content into mash-ups with endless media possibilities, constrained only by the availability of technology and human potential (Olofsson, Lindberg, & Stodberg, 2011). In American colleges and schools, many students collaborate in developing a class journal; others build group projects using collaborative blogs. Some constructs a photo blog of class trips, team activities, field trips, sports day, varsity games, parties or picnics; Others build a video blog of these same class activities. It was found that thirty-eight percent of online teens read blogs while nineteen percent generate their own blog; bloggers engage in internet activities more than their non-blogging counterpart. It has been shown that the public nature of blogging--texts about real-world experience—have bridged young people around the world into one collaborative site in which all could participate if they chose to. The ease with which young people communicate seems to have helped in advancing literacy in a digital age (Ferris, 2012; Abrams, 2006; Lenhardt & Madden, 2005).

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3.Methodology

The purpose of this study is to illustrate that content literacy skills improve when online collaborative sites are integrated to develop a class project.

∞ Hypothesis One: Online participants significantly improve their content literacy skill more than those working face-to-face when they develop their project on their collaborative site.

The 60 participants, undergraduate business students, belonged to two undergraduate business courses taught by the practitioner-researcher across one academic semester taken at the Faculty of Business Administration and Economics at a private university in the MENA. As such, the participants were a convenience sample. The procedure adopted was to generate two sites in which content literacy skills are built: a control group and an experimental group.

∞ For the face-to-face category, the control group, the participants are informed that they are to work in groups of 5 on a research paper. The first four weeks of the semester, participants learn about the project in class: what to write about, how to develop the ideas, and where to gather information. In class, the practitioner-researcher comprehensively explains the first phase of the project--gathering the secondary resources. She uses the board and rehearses these steps of the project, clarifying that within three weeks at least three resources (books and/or articles) ought to be selected from the library, offline or online. She is available during her office hours on campus.

∞ For the online category, the experimental group, the participants were told that they would work in groups of 5 in a blended learning/teaching approach--both face-to-face in the classroom and online on the blog. The participants learn about the project in the classroom and on posts published on the blog across the first four weeks of the semester. In class, the practitioner-researcher comprehensively explains the first phase of the project--gathering the resources. She uses the board and rehearses these steps of the project, clarifying that within three weeks at least three secondary resources (books and/or articles) ought to be selected from the library, offline or online. The practitioner-researcher is available during her office hours on campus; she also devotes three hours each week to support the participants’ collaborative projects on their blogs.

Both qualitative and field-based constructions and analysis of events probed carefully selected areas. The study was conducted as a case study as it investigated a contemporary phenomena within its real life context whereby the boundaries between phenomena and context are not clearly defined (Twining, 2010; Yin, 2003). Relatively few incidents were investigated, covering features of a naturally occurring event (Yin, 2003). One research area was probed: content literacy. The research area was evaluated using five rubrics.

∞ Rubric One: The first assessment instrument evaluates the resources retrieved in terms of scope ( the number of books and articles retrieved).

∞ Rubric Two: The second assessment instrument evaluates the resources retrieved in terms of depth (the weight of books vs. article retrieved).

∞ Rubric Three: The third assessment instrument evaluates whether participants engaged in active listening in class.

∞ Rubric For: The fourth assessment instrument evaluates whether the participants shared information.

∞ Rubric Five: The fifth assessment instrument descriptively evaluates participants’ perception of the advantages of using face-to-face and online group work as a context in which to retrieve and gather secondary information.

T-tests and percentiles were used to analyze data.

4.Discussion

It was found that online participants who were interacting with the group blog significantly improved their content literacy skill more than those working face-to-face as measured by the depth--the value of resources retrieved (test 1.81, p< 0.05). Moreover, based on the results, it seems that those interacting online compared to those who worked face-to-face were more committed to building content literacy by engaging in active listening in class (85% vs. 55%) and by sharing information (75% vs. 60%). The acquisition of the ability to define a concept, identify secondary resources, propose alternative research routes, write concisely, debate, and interact in a group

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learnt in the communication course did not remain compartmentalized: most of the participants on the blog made the connections between the courses themselves and extended the skills acquired in a communication course in the business course. They took steps towards becoming professionally competent in the business marketplace as they communicated and thought critically in their discipline. Many did not as has been the case with other researchers (Bates & Waldrup, 2006). Participants working in the face-to-face group-mode stated that the mode facilitated immediate performance on the research project in terms of retrieving and selecting resources in person at the university campus either before or after the course session; however, some participants noted that it was difficult to work together: group members tended to have multiple obligations as other university courses, work and/or transportation commitments. Participants in this case study in the MENA as other young adults around the world have had difficulty applying interdisciplinary skills resisting traditional reading, writing, and researching activities even though other youth their age are innovatively generating blogs that are media rich online (Brozo & Puckett, 2010; Wood, Pilonieta, & Blanton, 2009; Al-Daihani, 2009). Based on the results, it was found that the participants using the blended learning approach retrieved and selected more significant secondary resources than those working face-to-face: The participants working on the blog developed literacy skills that were focused on gathering meaningful and useful business resources. They took the time and made the effort to search for secondary resources that were appropriate, optimally selecting more relevant and suitable articles over books. It should be noted that one group searched for and selected more resources than requested. Among these bloggers, synergy seems to have been created collaboratively online reflecting rich cognitive development (Akhras, 2011; Wiske, Rennebohn, & Breit, 2005) perhaps as a result of using the social-networking tool as has been found in other studies (Santos, 2011; Iandoli, 2009; Servilio & Petito, 2009). For these blogging participants, the blog was user-friendly, facilitating a media-rich communicative environment which has been found to be the case with other researchers (Hsu & Wang, 2011; Abrams, 2006). The blog as a medium seems to have been formative--24/7 any time any place--as it generated online continuity optimizing the flow between channels (Shirky, 2008) of student-blog, student-library website, student-student, student-teacher, and teacher-student whenever the participants were ready to contribute.

5.Conclusion

To conclude, the case study showed that, in general, using a favorable medium as blogging in order to motivate undergraduate business students to improve their content literacy seems to be a successful course of action. In addition, the case study reflects that the public nature of their course content assignment in addition to its real-world significance may have been found to be as engaging for them in the MENA as it seems to be in the developed world. What is relevant is the ease with which young business undergraduates socially interact. This seems to have helped not only in advancing content literacy but also in building information literacy both equally valuable in the globally competitive business world where more multinational companies as well as small and medium-sized businesses today are incorporating blogs as an accessible easy-to-use interactive social networking tools available to a global public with endless possibilities for media-integration (Santos, 2011). In this study, even though the results are promising, limitations were met in the research study. The sample selected were mainly undergraduate business students drawn from two business management courses and consequently were young and may have had a similar attitude towards using blogging as a social networking technology tool which may either have encouraged or discouraged content construction. Moreover, other limitations met in this case study were the sample size, the teaching semesters selected, participants’ academic history, social economic status, and/or work commitments. In spite of the limitations met, the practitioner-researcher draws two recommendations: Given that the quality and quantity of opportunities to develop literacy as listening, speaking, reading, and writing surround young people across the globe (Ferris, 2012; Blanchard & Moore, 2010), I strongly recommend that business educators integrate media-rich social networking technology into their courses, both directly and indirectly, considering the moderating variables levels of readiness and interactive comprehension in order to build content literacy into their students business portfolio.

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