EMPLOYING WEB TECHNOLOGIES FOR GIVING KNOWLEDGE TO FARMERS: AN EMPIRICAL STUDY OF COLLABORATIVE LEARNING FOR FARMERS IN SRI LANKA
1 University of Turku (FINLAND)
2 University of Colombo (SRI LANKA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:A large scale expansion of learning is required to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. However, conventional face-to-face learning cannot address the massive learning needs that exist. The development of Internet and Web technologies has made it possible to “reach the unreached” and facilitate learning among farmers, landless laborers and marginalized individuals, regardless of their literacy levels. Giving knowledge and information for farmers is an important approach to enhance productivity of agricultural industry. It can also help to solve acute problems existing in rural areas and developing rural economy. Web-based education programs for farmers in rural areas can bring about such benefits as enrolling large numbers of learners, covering a wide variety of areas, reducing costs, transmitting and sharing quality learning resources, and increasing farmers' access to education. It is quite important for the country like Sri Lanka since the main income source of the rural sector depends on agriculture and farmers are facing difficulties to get knowledge and information for improving their productivity.
Identifying this issue, Institute for Agro-technology and Rural Sciences in University of Colombo, Sri Lanka has implemented an Online Distance Education program called Online Agro-technology Diploma for farmers in Sri Lanka. Learning Management system (LMS) was developed in local language using Moodle. Online discussion forums and chat sessions were also designed in this program in order to help farmers to make daily communication with their colleagues and teachers on issues in agriculture. The prototype was developed and implemented in 2009. Currently, about 500 farmers all around the country have joined in this course. In this study the main objective is to find out the effectiveness of web-based collaborative learning as a means for giving knowledge and information for farming community through investigating user satisfaction. This study conducted a survey to understand student farmer’s attitudes toward web-based learning program. The questionnaire was distributed to 60 farmer students who already completed their Diploma. The respondents were asked to answer questions related to web based learning experience as well as their perceptions on web based learning.
With a 91.7% response rate, a total of 55 valid questionnaires were collected. SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) was used to analyze data for this research. A stepwise multiple regression analysis was used to prove the significance of the variables. We used 10 variables as independent variables, and user satisfaction as dependent variable. The results indicated that learners’ attitudes towards web-based learning, language of instruction and language of Learning Management System, flexibility of the course, Quality of the learning material, Interactivity of learning activities, multimedia introduction, proper accessibility, satisfaction with online discussion forums, proper assistance by online tutors and mentors and updated, timely and relevant information are the critical factors affecting learners’ perceived satisfaction. The results also show institutions how to improve user satisfaction of web-based leaning implementations and it provides insights for institutions to strengthen their web-based learning implementations for people who willing to acquire knowledge to improve their socio-economic status while involving in their profession like farmers.
Keywords: Web-based learning, User satisfaction, Farmer education.