Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

A Case Evaluation in Internet Assisted Laboratory Teaching

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

A Case Evaluation in Internet Assisted Laboratory Teaching

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper presents the preliminary findings from an evaluation conducted on the implementation of Internet assisted teaching of fluid mechanical engineering laboratory sessions on a university degree programme. It compares the particular merits of laboratory sessions in which students receive instruction from Internet based presentations compared with those who received instruction from `traditional' tutor led sessions, through a process of questionnaire based surveys and direct observations. The paper concludes that Internet assisted sessions allow students to easily repeat experimental instructions and provide late or absent students the opportunity to easily catch up with missed work. However, students still appear more likely to ask staff for assistance than rely on the Interact resources for information, and the Interact based programme, as applied here, has encountered some practical difficulties that have greatly reduced its effectiveness as a teaching aid.

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This paper is a single case evaluation of the implementation of Interact assisted learning into the teaching of degree level fluid mechanical engineering laboratory sessions at one British university.

The initial impetus for implementing Internet assisted learning within laboratory sessions arose out of a number of difficulties that had been observed during the `traditional' tutor led teaching of these laboratory sessions. These included that student often spent a considerable amount of time waiting for assistance from a member of staff, late or absent students had difficulty catching up with work, and that many students had little understanding of the experimental, theoretical or report requirements of the work they were undertaking. It was hoped that the placing of computer terminals with access to Internet based resources containing experimental and background details in the laboratory would help remove many of these difficulties encountered with tutor led sessions. Though in the sessions under evaluation here, these computers based resources could only be accessed in the laboratory, by placing these on the Internet it is intended that future students will be able to access this from terminals outside of the laboratory at their own convenience.

This evaluation draws direct comparison between what will be referred to as Internet assisted sessions and traditional tutor led sessions. The typical format of a tutor led session is that a tutor will start each laboratory session by briefly addressing the whole class. Students are then split into groups (usually four groups of two or three students) who move over to their apparatus. The tutor (and sometimes a member of support staff) will visit each group in turn, providing help and specific information on the experiments.

In an Internet assisted sessions students are split into small groups upon arriving at the session and directed to computer terminals with headphones. The students then listen to an Internet based presentation involving directions, theory and report requirements of the experiment(s). After listening to this presentation students then move over to their apparatus and begin the experiments. Again members of staff are on hand to assist students and offer guidance on the experiments.

Evaluation Criterion

It was decided that the most suitable criterion for the evaluation of the Internet assisted learning programme were those factors that were initially perceived as being advantageous with this type of session. These were that the Internet assisted sessions would provide:

   * Clearer introduction to the laboratory topic

   * More efficient use of laboratory time

   * Students arriving late can catch up easily

   * Ability to revisit instructions and information so that students can
   clarify misunderstandings

   * Clearer focus on report requirements

   * Absent students can pick-up the detail of missed work in subsequent
sessions

Additionally the piloting stage of this evaluation process raised the issues of whether the students understood the theoretical background to the work they were doing, and if they understood how to precisely undertake the experiments. …

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