Outsider Influence And The Utility Of E-Mail As An Instrument For Teaching In Developing Nations: A Case Study In Fiji
Morris W. Shanahan
Journal of College Teaching & Learning (TLC)
INTRODUCTION he impact of outsider influence in the advancement of human capital in developing nations is well documented 1 . This paper examines the utility of e-mail as a mechanism for delivery of outsider influence to middle managers in Fiji via a personal management development programme (PMDP). Thirteen participants took part in the PMDP over a six month period. The programme was aimed at enhancing their managerial skills by achievement of a series of negotiated objectives. There was one
... ce-to-face meeting with each participant to set up the programme and negotiate objectives, and a second face-to-face meeting six weeks later to ensure all processes and systems were operational. During the six month duration of the programme, all other correspondence was limited to e-mail only. At the end of the six month period a 360° Assessment was conducted to determine achievement of objectives. Results showed that the process resulted in improvements of management skills in identified areas for all participants, supporting the contention that outsider influence can be successfully achieved using e-mail as a method for conveying information relevant to the teaching of management skills. However, there were some issues germane to the use of e-mail in a developing nation that proved problematic. These issues related to: cultural constraints (i.e., issues of language), tradition-based limitations (i.e., paternalistic and hierarchical structures), an inherited past (British colonialism), and infrastructure (poor telecommunications services). All were obstacles that needed to be managed and sufficiently overcome, but once conquered, suggest web and internet based learning strategies can be successfully delivered at distance to individuals in developing nations. "One of the challenges facing instructional designers is in producing e-learning systems, which take account of individual differences such as nationality, gender and more importantly from an educational perspective, cognitive learning style" (Graff, Davies & McNorton, n.d.) There are numerous arguments suggesting that the use of computer-mediated-communication (CMC) can overcome a number of constraints, both environmental and cultural (Bates, 1997; Garrison & Anderson, 2003; Jin, 2005; Kanuka, 2005) . Moran and Hawisher (1998) suggest that the speed of e-mail can assist in offsetting distance and time constraints. Jin (2005) argues that "web technology provides opportunities to bridge the geographical gap between the instructor and the learner" (p59). Jin also found that the use of e-mail as a teaching tool allowed distance learners a vehicle for rapid communication, "more time to reflect on their own ideas and improve critical thinking in their own pace and at a convenient time" (p64). Sunderland (2002) found that e-mail was a useful tool in assisting PhD students at distance and she argues that the use of e-mail not only provides a convenient and fast method of communication, but also ads "personal and social value for its users" (p245). Young (2004) determined that the personalized attention afforded through e-mail was beneficial in assisting learners comprehend difficult issues and concepts. She also argues that online learning provides students with greater flexibility in relation to time and pace of learning, both of which are seen as beneficial. 1 For more information on outsider influence in developing nations, see Shanahan and Shanahan, 2005.