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Dr. Hillar Addo:  LUCAS College, Accra. h.addo@lucas-college.net 

Yaw O. Gyau: Snr. Lecturer/H.O.D Advertising. Faculty of Public Relations and Advertising, Ghana Institute of Journalism, Accra Ghana. styloconsult@gmail.com

Abstract

This study investigated blogging as an e-learning tool and the level at which it is becoming a medium for teaching and learning in communication tertiary institutions in Ghana. The study considered four theories; e-learning/online learning models; constructivism, interactivism, and connectivism to provide a context for the use of instructional technology, focusing on communication training institutions in Ghana. Using a quantitative methodology, the study adopted multi-stage sampling procedure to respond to three propositions: 1. Students who have blog sites are more comfortable with lecturers who use blogging as an e-learning tool for teaching and learning. 2. There is a significant positive relationship between students with blog sites and Communication training Institutions that consider e-learning as a teaching and learning platform. 3. Having a blog site influences the career development of students from Communication training Institutions. Findings were that; tutors and learners casually use e-learning tools, majority of students and lecturers in communication training institutions in Ghana would appreciate utilising e-learning tools for the delivery of various learning modules, but it is sparingly, casually and occasionally used. The study also provided a new model within the context of active patronage of e-learning tools and blogging for teaching and learning in tertiary institutions in Ghana.

Keywords: E-learning, Constructivism, Connectivism, Interactivism, Blogging, Blogs, New Media, Tertiary Education

Introduction

A general problem in Ghana from the perspective of communication students and in the view of the researchers of this study is that, both tutors and students in tertiary institutions are caught in an edivide and need to be trained and equipped with nascent skills.  As the world evolves into the digital age, training of communication students has also evolved but has not seen much research to provide a context to this envisaged reality in Ghana. E-learning has become a household concept, and, blogs and e-learning tools are perceived as key tools contributing to the vibrancy of the online community, helping students to create a digital identity, and thus develop stronger linkages with people (Gotts, 2006). The realisation of e-learning as a learning domain is however quite puzzling and remains an illusion in tertiary institutions in Ghana where tools such as podcasting is making inroads into radio journalism. This research investigated training of communication students using bourgeoning e-learning technologies.

Objectives of the study were, to; determine the state of e-learning for teaching and learning in Communication Institutions in Ghana, examine the e-learning tools used among communication students in tertiary institutions, determine the creation and patronage of blogging as an e-learning tool in communication programmes in tertiary institutions and present a way forward in e-learning for future communication, and tertiary institutions.

Institutions used for the research were the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), Jayee University College (JUC), African University College of Communications (AUCC) and Christian Service University College (CSUC).

Literature Review

  1. Elearning, Blogs, Journalism and the Digital Divide

Almost every organisation in the developed world has become completely dependent on networks of telephony and computers. When they break down, the organisation simply stops working. At the societal and global level it is obvious that media and social networks reach various people or markets in the farthest corners of the world. The Internet and new media tools facilitate this phenomenon, as new generations of mobile or fixed telephony are fully digitalized and integrated adding text, picture or video (van Dijk, 2006).

 According to Ventimiglia and Pullman, (2016), in today’s world, college/university graduates come into contact with a quickly evolving range of technologies and have access to a wealth of information. Students can be more successful after graduation if they are digitally literate—having learned how to identify and create digital solutions, adapt to new tools, and discover more effective and efficient ways of doing things in their fields. The term blog originated from the blend of the term “web log” and, the web provides the opportunity for people to easily set up their own blog and share their thoughts. Blogs are usually found in written formats to express a subject, issue or opinion that can be conveyed to an audience for a wide range of purposes, including personal, business, work and sharing news stories. (Ashraf and Lakhtaria, 2011)

Researchers of this paper hold the view that tertiary institutions mandated to train students to become professional journalists and public relation (PR) practitioners have a responsibility in the face of dynamic trends in tutelage fields, to expose students to new media and its tools to facilitate multimedia and digital communications. It is therefore, imperative in our view for tutors to engage learners in e-learning and blogging to prepare them for imminent social networking tasks.

Wasserman (2010), in his article …‘Teaching Critical Global Journalism’, stated that Journalism courses that approach students as if they can continue to work as an elite, professional class will have to reflect on how journalism has become a more collaborative field of practice.

Currently, integration of digital tools, training and the world of work is needed owing to globalization and the resulting interdependence between countries and market places (Kitchen et al., 2004; Schultz, 1996). While some are under control, others appear to be insurmountable. Hawkins (2002), in his work ‘Ten lessons for education in the developing world’, identified reasons why information and communication technology (ICT) education in Ghana is facing numerous challenges. In his introductory pages, Hawkins (2002) made the very insightful statement that:

 The skills to productively transform knowledge and information into innovative products and services will define successful knowledge economies. Because knowledge and information have become the most important currency for productivity, competitiveness, and increased wealth and prosperity, nations have placed greater priority on developing their human capital. Governments around the world are thus focusing on strategies to increase access to and improve the quality of education.” Hawkins (2002). He writes further that;

A relevant education is more important today than ever, because today’s Networked World demands a workforce that understands how to use technology as a tool to increase productivity and creativity. These skills include “information reasoning,” a process in which reliable sources of information are identified, effectively accessed, understood, contextualized, and communicated to colleagues. Furthermore, employers require workers to have the skills necessary to collaborate, work in teams, and share information across global networks, that is, to analyze issues from a multidisciplinary perspective.” Hawkins (2002).  

Addo, (2001) pointed out earlier that technology assists in increasing motivation to learn, and attentiveness.

Journalism and Public Relations are adapting to modern technological practices driven by the Internet. A study by Alfonso & de Valbuena (2006) of 120 corporate websites from six European countries in the US and Singapore found that the ‘use of Internet tools to build strong and solid relationships with the media is far from ideal. Dewdney & Ride (2006) suggested that new media was becoming the preferred term for a range of media practices that employ digital technologies and the computer in some way or another. Communication training institutions must therefore step-up training for learners by integrating Instructional technology and e-learning tools into the curriculum and allow it to dictate the pace of teaching and leaning. The justification is that learners graduating from communication training institutes acquire the requisite skills required for at least online journalism and public relations (Dewdney & Ride, 2006).

Wasserman (2010), stated in ‘Teaching Critical Global Journalism’, that Journalism courses that approach students as if they can continue to work as an elite, professional class will have to make way for reflection on how journalism has become a more collaborative field of practice.

Gotts (2006) reminds readers that ‘Blogs were seen as a key strategy contributing to the vibrancy of the online community, in helping students to create a digital identity, and thus develop stronger linkages with people they would never otherwise meet.

In her work The Digital Divide and what to do about it, Hargittai (2003) explained the term digital divide as:

… People’s actual use of the medium beyond merely having access to it. The “digital divide” is most often conceptualized in binary terms: someone either has access to the medium or does not, someone either using the Internet or does not; the “digital divide” to include a discussion of different dimensions of the divide focusing on such details as quality of equipment, autonomy of use, the presence of social support networks, experience and online skill.” (Hargittai 2003)

There seems to be a number of parts to Hargittai’s (2003) definition of the term ‘digital divide’ which precisely expose the problems that are faced in Ghana and for that matter Africa. In one part she identified access to (technological) medium and in the other, usage of technology. These are relevant because for e-learning to be successful in higher institutions of learning, there is the need for these two challenges to be dealt with. The latter part of the statement indentified social support networks, experience and online skill, as key variables to be discussed or considered in the digital divide.

In Africa, and for that matter Ghana, both tutors and students in tertiary institutions are caught in Hargittai’s (2003) divide and therefore, need to be equipped or trained.

  • E-learning and Instructional Technology

Instructional Technology is as well identified and discussed as a subject matter from which e-learning and its related tools emanate, and Atwell, (2010), identified pedagogical structures powered by computer technology, as giving birth to two other methods of teaching which are; Andragogy and Mobigogy. The former regarded as pedagogy for adult learners, while the latter is regarded as mobile learning; education of the future.

To further strengthen the rationale for e-learning, online learning and distant learning, the researchers have identified that several theories and conceptual frameworks, alongside academic models, have been proposed and approved to guide or ensure the principles for creating, sustaining and operating such programmes.  Notable among them are; the Model of Online learning, Constructivism and Connectivism.

Seals and Richey 1994, through the Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT), defined Instructional technology as ‘the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management and evaluation of processes and resources for learning, throwing more light on theory, practice and process with the perspective of design, development, utilization and evaluation. (Seals and Richey 1994).

The beauty of instructional technology is that technological devices for teaching and learning can be customized or specially designed with specific features, to serve specific needs. For example, the brail and other learning devices have been created for visually impaired students to participate in teaching and learning. Instructional technology has more to do with direct application of technology in the acts of teaching and learning. (Mishra and Koehler, 2006)

Acording to (Cole, 2000), instructional technology also encapsulates online learning, which is gradually replacing conventional instruction because, online learning, makes use of the computer and the Internet with computer-based applications such as Internet browsers and other learning-platforms. Online learning allows participants to collapse time and space however, the learning materials must be designed properly to engage the learner and promote learning.  Bonk and Reynolds (1997), reported that to promote higher-order thinking on the web, online learning must create challenging activities that enable learners to link new information to old: acquire meaningful knowledge; and use their meta-cognitive abilities; hence it is the instructional strategy, not the technology that influences the quality of learning.

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Below is a detailed illustration of the Concept of the Instructional Technology Field by McGriff 2001.

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