The Applicationof Information Technology
With the beginning of the 21st century, the information technology is developing at a rapid rate. The IT applications are playing crucial roles in different fields and areas including science research, manufacturing industry, education and so on. The IT application utilized in universities is a typical case which reflects its significant functions. Such university-used applications encompass a wide range of items such as computers, personal communication devices, digital video and sound system, email, the Internet and so on (Davison C, 2005). This paper is based on a research which is to investigate how IT applications function in education field. The purpose of the essay is to indicate IT applications have a profound effect on the running of a university. Xi’an Jiao tong Liverpool University, employing a great number of IT applications, was selected to be the object in this research. The research focused on two typical applications. One is ICE, an electronic learning environment popularly used in this university, and the other is the library OPAC.
2.1 Data collection
In this research, a questionnaire was used. After the first draft of the questionnaire was finished designing, a pilot study was conducted. An improved one which removed the ambiguousness and duplications was carried on later. The new version comprised 8 questions mainly focused on the students’ perspectives to ICE and the library OPAC. Six questions in the questionnaire were related to ICE, and the remaining two covered topics on the OPAC.
2.2 The sample
Throughout the research, 40 questionnaires were released and 38 papers were collected eventually. Consequently, the sample size is 38. Respondents involved in this research were freshman and sophomore level students who majored in different programmes in XJTLU. They consisted of both males and females and their ages varied.
Before discussing the results of the research, it is necessary to be familiar with the objects of this research: ICE and library OPAC. ICE, standing for interactive communications environment, aims to be a website “where you love thinking about what you’re studying and communicating your thoughts to your tutors and classmates” (XJTLU ICE, 2007). ICE is based on free software called Moodle. The other object involved in the research is XJTLU library OPAC, which provides online-library service. OPAC, standing for online process access catalogue, is based on Koha which is non-commercial software. Using Koha as a means for providing enhanced library service is growing rapidly for its lower cost and strong functions-providing. (Cervone H, 2005)
3.2 Findings regarding ICE
According to the questionnaire, ICE is functioning consistently. Just as the researcher’s hypothesis, ICE, a typical application of IT, does play a vital role in the university. The great effects of ICE can be reflected in several aspects. Firstly, the using-frequency can be referred to show its importance. All the respondents in this research used ICE regularly. Moreover, twenty-nine of the respondents (76.3%) logged on ICE more than once per day. The high frequently using shows its popularity. Secondly, the positive comments on ICE given by the respondents are another supporting point to show its popularity. Thirty-two respondents (84%) thought that ICE was very important to their studies. Twenty-six students (68.4%) agreed the statement that ICE was very convenient and easy to use. The data indicated that most students in XJTLU were satisfied with ICE regarding its functions. It is interesting to note the most popular functions provided by ICE. As shown in the picture below, the top three functions that students appreciated most were coursework submission, course material providing and event announcement. It is apparent that ICE functions like a platform that provides convenience to students by referring to these functions provided.
Although ICE was appreciated by the respondents, there remained some alterations that could be done to improve it. The researcher classifies the suggestions collected in the questionnaires into three main aspects. The main problem with ICE was related to its theme. The philosophy of Moodle’s designing is based on the feature of learning. Learning is a process of negotiating meaning and utilizing shared artifacts. Therefore, Moodle aims to provide tools for discussion and sharing artifacts. (Cole J, 2005) ICE which is based on Moodle should have inherited this characteristic. However, the problem that respondents complaint the most was about communication and materials’ sharing. Over half of the respondents thought that the communication between users in ICE should be enhanced. Another problem is about its design and appearance. Respondents suggested that more highlights should be settled into the page so as to make different area distinctive. They found it difficult to find out the new events from the massive staff. The last problem is about the loading speed. Several respondents stated that the loading speed was rather slow in their dormitories.
3.3 Findings regarding XJTLU library OPAC
XJTLU OPAC is less popular compared with ICE. According to the questionnaire, only 10 respondents, about 26.3%, have used it before. The utilization-rate would be much less than 26.3% with researcher’s speculation. The low usage could be caused by the factors stated below. To start with, less awareness could be one possible factor. Fifteen respondents (39.5%) were not aware of OPAC’s presence. Another reason might be related to the necessity of using OPAC. Twenty-five percent of students stated that it was not necessary to use OPAC. They found it more convenient to go to the library on their own. Such a situation might be caused by the small size of the library. Sorting books in the library is not that time consuming. The last possible factor is about the convention. Students who came from secondary school did not use such an application. To put it more clearly, they were not familiar with this application.
In this research, a questionnaire was designed and utilized. Two objects were examined regarding different aspects. Some applications of IT like ICE do have a profound effect on the university. However, other applications such as OPAC were still in frustration. To be general, the applications of IT are vital to this university. IT application is believed to play a more important role in this field than ever before.
Regarding this research, several improvements could be done in terms of further studies. The research size was small due to the limitation of time and money. If possible, the extended sample size and enhanced questionnaire will make the research more valid. An experiment can be conducted between two groups (one study with e-learning, the other study under traditional environment) to examine the real function of E-learning environment. This could provide worthwhile information about the value of information technology.
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Core, J. (2005), ‘What makes Moodle special’, Using Moodle, chapter1, publisher: O’Reilly. Available at: http://books.google.com/books?id=Artp8i-wXjQC&printsec=frontcover&dq=moodle&sig=XD3JEwOMlmn_Mjk1R6Wpj8P8irM#PPP1,M1[2007, November 26]
Cervone, H. (2005), ‘Open-source Software to Support Distance Learning Library Services’, Internet Reference Support for Distance Learners, publisher: Haworth. Available at: http://books.google.com/books?id=-BMrZ0Qh3OkC&pg=PA148&dq=LIBRARY+KOHA&sig=8myRXz3Q52_zFvOZ9rSpneaji8s [2007, November 26]
Welcome Moodle[online]. Available at: http://moodle.org[2007, November 26]
XJTLU ICE (2007) Home Page[online]. Available at: http://ice.xjtlu.edu.cn [2007, November 26]