Published on August 18, 2009
“Vula is my survival kit”
Centre for Educational Technology, University of Cape Town
Vula Vital Stats Vula is Sakai at the University of Cape Town 91% of UCT students used Vula in 2008 (20,351 / 22,231) In 2009, 12,000+ people use Vula every day
Vula User Survey Derived from Sakai community survey question bank Student survey delivered online, 12–19 Oct 08 4235 respondents = 21% of student users (20,351) 83 questions Median time to respond: 11 minutes 425 A4 pages of results Staff survey delivered online, 12 – 23 Nov 08 152 respondents = 7%-13% of staff users (1202 / 2313) Survey responses were not anonymous, allowing more complex analysis.
Students like Vula Staff (n=148): 53% very positive, 42% positive, 5% neutral, 0% negative
Students have easy access to Vula 65% use Vula daily (28% weekly) On campus, 74% use Vula from Faculty computer labs, 10% from Library 92% have easy access to Vula (“Whenever I need to use Vula, it's easy for me to get access to it”) For how long have you been using computers? 68% More than 8 years 20% 4 – 8 years 12% < 4 years
Students find it easy to use I found it easy to learn how to use Vula 93% agree or strongly agree (30%, 63%) I can quickly do what I need to do or find what I'm looking for on Vula: 91% agree or strongly agree (33%, 58%) When you have a problem with Vula, what do you most often do to get help? 71% ask a friend or another student 14% Ask a lab administrator or lab assistant
Some challenges facing higher ed in SA Highly diverse student body Under-prepared university entrants (disadvantaged schooling background) Many first-generation university entrants Differentiated and low throughput rates (political, social equity, efficiency and funding concerns) “At the University of Cape Town, for example, the difference in throughput rates between English first language and second language students in 2002 was more than 20% in several degrees / programmes(Spiegel et al., 2003)” http://ijedict.dec.uwi.edu/include/getdoc.php?id=2566&article=421&mode=pdf “Survival of the fittest” no longer an acceptable engagement strategy for supporting students We therefore have a particular concern for and interest in supporting at-risk students, especially in education development units such as UCT’s CHED. July 2009 10th Sakai Conference - Boston, MA, U.S.A. 7
Staff vs student responses: course use ? A mismatch in perceptions or description?
Vula Student Survey: Themes Vula helps me organize my academic life Staff should use it more (so it’s more useful to us) Vula means I don’t always need to go to lectures When I go to lectures, I’m better prepared and can take better notes If I miss lectures, I can catch up
Students said … “I was a student in the days before the coming of Vula, those were dark times… Vula has significantly improved all aspects of student/staff communication.” “vula sums up an entire course, when properly used, vula provides a strong link between class activities, lecturers and students”
Organizing my academic life It is extremely vital for my academic career. It help me alot to do all my Tuts and assignment. vula save my life Vula was extremely useful in checking what was required for the next day, especially if lectures were missed! vula is like my survival kit! Our schedule on Vula is not always up to date :-( If it were not for Vula I would most likely not know what to do for some of my courses I have too things change all the time and it helps to be on top of everything and Vula makes it that much easier i mean I can even access it from my phone when not on campus. Vula is really helpful for me, I check it out at LEAST twice a day to see if Im up to date with my work, and its good for calculating my coursework grades as the marks come in. I would not survive varsity without the use of vula! I need vula!! When most of the course material is online I have a better opportunity to understand and go over the work done in class. psychology dept does this incredibly well. find it much harder to keep ducks in a row with drama courses as there is NO Vula site at all for any of them It is very easy to keep up to date with what is going on with the course. Courses that are not on vula are very difficult to keep up with and it is a hassle to keep visiting the Noticeboards on an every day basis It makes life soooooo much simpler My Organisational Psychology class doesn't use Vula and it's almost impossible to find out whats new what has changed what i need to do etc If vula was used by majority of the faculties, it would create a less stressful vibe of students I am up to date with notes and deadlines. This helps me to plan and work more efficiently.
Impact on face-to-face contact time “I know that some people will be discouraged to come to lectures, but I've found that if I have a very valid reason for missing a lecture, or have misplaced my tutorial work and dont know what to do for an assignment, a quick login to Vula immediately sets me at ease. I can get notes, feedback and interact with other students in my courses without too much hassle and running around.” “lecture slides must still be printed for the students as this allows annotating of slides while listening to the lecturer, as writing all notes down hampers my ability to fully listen to what the lecturer is saying” “Sometimes you happen to miss lectures on purpose or not on purpose and vula makes it possible that the material covered, announcements made and all that was done in your absence is made available for you.” “It is so useful having lecture slides online so that wecan listen in class and take extra notes rather than just focussing on writing every word down from slides or what the lecturer says. I realised how useful lecture slides on vula are because history lecturers…do not have or put very few lecture slides online.” “for subjects like psychology, their extensive use of vula has made me not go to lectures etc” “by putting up lecture notes on vula prior to lectures (at least a day before!) I listen better in class and take notes, but also that way i can look at the material beforehand and see whether it seems necessary/worthwhile to go to class that day, or whether i can make better use of my time” “I miss more lectures by simply downloading them off Vula.”
Student concerns are … affective, emotional, visceral (“dark times”, “saved my life”, “vital”, “less stressful”, “sets me at ease”, “survival”) practical (easier, less hassle, simpler) about access to and engagement with learning processes about structure, pacing, tasks (and feedback?) rational (how to make the best decisions) July 2009 10th Sakai Conference - Boston, MA, U.S.A. 13
So what about the software? In the “what is this software useful for” spectrum, showing spikes in this area, even though Sakai is not specifically architected for this outcome This = “Vula helps me understand and plan to achieve what’s required of me for academic success” ? Who would have said: “Let’s design software to reduce student anxiety” ? Let’s design software to help students succeed. July 2009 10th Sakai Conference - Boston, MA, U.S.A. 14
What to do with this We need good context to make services and capabilities work well and be useful An important context and filter for aggregation (synoptic / wrapup views), notifications (what’s coming up, what’s happening now), event streams (what have other users done), multiple interfaces and access methods (web, mobile, PLE), search, tagging A design element in good choice architecture for the software and templates (“capability profiles”) – guide people to produce good outcomes by default without increasing complexity or effort. July 2009 10th Sakai Conference - Boston, MA, U.S.A. 15
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