University of Aveiro (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Pages: 6399-6407
ISBN: 978-84-616-8412-0
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 10-12 March, 2014
Location: Valencia, Spain
The use of communication technologies (CT) to support teaching and learning practices, in higher education (HE), has emerged as a research topic worldwide. At University of Aveiro (Portugal) project TRACER began researching in 2011 the use of communication technologies to support teaching and learning practices. Data was collected in two moments, through two online surveys. The first moment focused on the institutional perspective of the use of CT, data provided by decision makers at the rectory level of the Portuguese public HE institutions.

The survey was composed of 7 dimensions and its indicators:
1) profile of the institution;
2) resources and functionalities of CT;
3) Infrastructures to support the use of CT;
4) equipment and supports for the use of CT;
5) Training for CT use.

The second moment focused on the teachers’ perspective of the use of CT in teaching practice, and the survey was composed of 5 dimensions:
1) teachers’ profile;
2) CT used in teaching practice;
3) resources used in teaching practice;
4) equipment and supports for the use of CT;
5) Training.

Results from the institutional perspective, globally show that from the total of courses of all existing cycles in respondent HE institutions, 5.9% are delivered entirely online and 4.2% in a blended environment, almost all from the 1st and 2nd cycle of the Bologna study cycle. Regarding the provision of online learning management systems to support teaching and learning, results showed that the open source platform Moodle is the most commonly adopted, sometimes coexisting with other similar platforms. From the analysis of the access of teachers and students to these online platforms, results show there were more accesses in the case of institutions with courses available in the online environment.

From the teachers’ perspective, global results show that interpersonal CTs and institutional learning management systems are the most used for discussion purposes. Regarding pedagogical use, online platforms are used mostly for dissemination purposes. Communication between teachers and students in class and extra-class time (95,7%) and the possibility of making available diverse educational resources to students (93,5%) are positive aspects. On the other hand, the volume of tasks demanded for integrating CT in the educational process for teachers (44,3%) is perceived as the most negative aspect. Main reasons for using CT in teaching process is motivating students for learning (77,8%) and innovating teaching practice (74,6%).

The main results of the project are a consolidated in a web based tool, the U‐TRACER, which provides support to the online data collection, processing and deployment of information about the use of CTs by information visualization features. These features allow consulting information generated by the data collected, by selecting specific filters such as HE institution or based on geographical criteria. The results of information filtering are presented in graphical displays which the user can download or share in social websites. The main features of the U-Tracer will be detailed in the article, along with several examples of the individual and aggregated statistical information users may request. The U-Tracer tool points towards the sustainability of the data collection and presentation of its information, foreseeing future temporal analysis of the data.
Communication Technology, Higher Education, Teaching, Learning, Online platform, Information visualization.