Science experiments for communities of distance learners

Robinson, David and Swithenby, Stephen (2009). Science experiments for communities of distance learners. In: Frontiers in Science Education Research (FISER'09), 22-24 Mar 2009, Famagusta, Cyprus.

Abstract

A longstanding challenge for distance educators has been to provide a meaningful experience of science experiments. The difficulty is not only a matter of accessing equipment but also of framing the valuable social and collaborative experience that students enjoy in conventional laboratory settings. In this paper we describe the development of a module that allows individual students working at a distance to collaborate in groups carry out simple but significant scientific experiments and acquire transferrable and professional experimental skills. Developing suitable experiments appropriate in a global distance learning environment is very different from devising a laboratory-based experiment. We report the results of a pilot with a small group of students, tested against the criteria for successful on-line collaborative experiments we have set for the new module.

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