Scalable E-Learning Platform for Spreadsheet Modeling
In recent years, digital technology has revolutionized the education landscape. In particular, scalable e-learning or e-learning at large is a flourishing field of study. This paper is a case study of our work - we take a university-wide core course in spreadsheet modeling and bring it online in a web-based application. There are a few major motivations for bringing a course, which is regularly taught face-to-face in a physical classroom once a week over 14 weeks, to an online platform. First of all, the primary tool used in all exercises in classroom learning is a standalone application. All trainees have this application installed on their personal computer, and they perform problem solving exercises offline. When trainees run into issues, they must either email their spreadsheet file over to the instructor for review or book a face-to-face consultation session.
This approach can be problematic:
1) the instructor has limited physical time for consultation,
2) this generates a lot of email messages with large attached files, and
3) there is a lag time between receiving the email, opening the file, reviewing the problem, and communicating feedback to the trainee via email message.
Currently, an instructor typically teaches anywhere between 140 and 180 trainees per semester. There is a strong need to streamline the process of mentoring trainees in a more scalable and time-efficient manner. Secondly, in the current learning environment, it is difficult to "learn on the go". Accessing a web-based application on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets is much more convenient and feasible for trainees commuting a long distance on public transportation. Thirdly, while we have assignments and quizzes for regular assessment of trainees' learning, we do not have a systematic way of providing more frequent guidance and feedback. Unless the trainee proactively seeks help from the instructor frequently, the instructor has no way of knowing whether the trainee is performing all exercises and doing them correctly on a daily basis. Lastly, while our school promotes peer learning and sharing, in the current learning environment, the instructor has little visibility into this aspect of trainees' learning as the instructor only observes them during assigned class hours (three hours each week). In order to overcome these difficulties, we developed a web-based application designed for both instructors and trainees. Instructors can create spreadsheet problem solving exercises, track trainees' performance at the individual level (e.g. whether a particular trainee has completed certain exercises and what is the completion rate), review spreadsheet models built by each trainee and provide feedback directly on the application. Instructors can choose to share certain feedback comments and thereby avoiding answering the same question multiple times. Trainees can track their own performance and perform modeling exercises online and with a simple click of a button, they can alert the teaching staff in case they have any questions. Further, the application provides various social features such as sharing tips and answering other trainees' questions. The current version of the application is loaded with over 50 exercises, and it was used and evaluated by over 300 trainees.
Databases and Information Systems | Educational Methods | Online and Distance Education
Learning and Information Systems Education
10th Annual International Technology Education and Development Conference (INTED2016)
City or Country
Lai, V; SHIM, Kyong Jin; and Prithivirajan, M..
Scalable E-Learning Platform for Spreadsheet Modeling. (2016). 10th Annual International Technology Education and Development Conference (INTED2016). Research Collection School Of Information Systems.
Available at: http://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/sis_research/3147