Collaborative experiments online in a module presented globally

Robinson, David J. (2011). Collaborative experiments online in a module presented globally. Bioscience Education, 18(1) pp. 1–9.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3108/beej.18.4

Abstract

A new module for Level 1 students called ‘Science Investigations’ provides an introduction to practical work, in an on-line environment. Most of the activities in the module require observational or experimental work done at home, with only the field work being ‘virtual’. The aim is to encourage practical and group work in an era when the amount of laboratory teaching is declining. Students are required to work in groups to design experiments and collect data sets. The assessment is computer-based, tailored to the type of final experiment that the student has been involved with. Tutorial help is provided both synchronously via video/audio conferencing and asynchronously via on-line forums. Students must meet minimum requirements in order to pass, including entering data into on-line databases, achieving satisfactory participation in tutorials and forums, and passing the end of module assessment. The key lesson learnt from the first presentation and survey data was that some students came with expectations that were at variance with the design philosophy of the module and that it is essential to make the module structure and the expectations for group work explicit at the start, to guide students in participating in experimental science in an online, distance learning environment.

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