Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Engineering Education

Using Online and Multimedia Resources to Enhance the Student Learning Experience in a Telecommunications Laboratory within an Australian University

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Engineering Education

Using Online and Multimedia Resources to Enhance the Student Learning Experience in a Telecommunications Laboratory within an Australian University

Article excerpt

1 INTRODUCTION

Various studies have investigated the use of the online delivery of laboratory material for enhancing the student learning experience in engineering (Alonso & Barreto, 2004; Kassim et al, 2004; Al-Dhaler, 2004; Hussmann et al, 2004; Lopez-Martin, 2004; Gustavsson, 2003; Jensen & Wood, 2003; Naghdy et al, 2002; 2003; Vial & Doulai, 2002; 2003; Raad et al, 2006; Vial et al, 2007; 2010). It is well established from these studies, and others, that the use of online technologies and material enhances student learning. Another technique used in university education in the Australian context has been examined in recent studies by Mazzolini et al (2012). They showed that the advantages of using the Instruction Lecture Demonstration (ILD) model, which is a type of active learning (AL) to enhance student learning and understanding in an engineering context which they applied in an introductory electronics course. In addition, the study by Mazzolini et al (2012) included laboratory activities designed around the skills needed in a particular engineering or science-based discipline. Their study occurred in the presence of a large cohort of students, 100 to 200 from various discipline backgrounds, which included engineering and science students. Interestingly, in their discussion of their observations of the student learning experience, they indicated that a blending of AL with the use of ILD (in the associated lectures) provided the best results irrespective of the quality of the lectures (Mazzolini et al, 2012). Their study also indicated that demonstration and practice enhance the engineering students' understanding and learning experience. It is in this context and learning philosophy that the Australian engineering telecommunications laboratory multimedia online materials were provided for our study.

Other measures to enhance the undergraduate learning experience has been through teacher training. Recent studies have shown that a large percentage of university teaching is conducted by sessional teachers. Sessional teachers are teaching staff that do not have a continuing position of employment. Studies have shown that sessional teachers tend to receive very little training (Australian Learning and Teaching Council, 2008; Lueddeke, 1997). Two recent Australian studies have tried to solve this problem, by providing specialised training to the demonstrators in the laboratories, and the tutors who provide direct face-to-face teaching services to the students (Santhanam & Codner, 2012; Nikolic et al, 2014a). Both studies demonstrated that the training helped improve the student experience, but were inconclusive as to the contribution in improving the learning outcomes of the laboratory experiments.

Other studies have looked at the needs of international students in meeting engineering-related assessment outcomes (Gornisiewicz & Bass, 2011). In their study they used assessment tests based on the previous week's learning material which could be done during the tutorial with collaboration from other peers and tutors:

"There are no time constraints regarding the test either, the students get the test at the beginning of the tutorial and they can return it at the end. They are allowed to collaborate, which encourages team work" (Gornisiewicz & Bass, 2011).

These tests were not used for assessment purposes but they showed a correlation between students who did these tests and improved final assessment marks. This is an example of the use of extra learning material to improve the student learning experience.

Using online multimedia-based teaching material is another way of enhancing the student learning experience. The benefits of adding multimedia resources was highlighted by Nikolic et al (2014b). They investigated the factors that influence student satisfaction in a laboratory environment. The study found that the quality of the laboratory notes, in terms of clarity and resources, was one of the most important factors which can increase student satisfaction in the laboratory. …

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