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Enhancement of active learning: the role of VLEs in developing student engagement prior to fieldwork Dr John Hunt & Dr David Milan School of Environment,

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Presentation on theme: "Enhancement of active learning: the role of VLEs in developing student engagement prior to fieldwork Dr John Hunt & Dr David Milan School of Environment,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Enhancement of active learning: the role of VLEs in developing student engagement prior to fieldwork Dr John Hunt & Dr David Milan School of Environment, University of Gloucestershire

2 The Alpine Field Trip: Background and Issues A high mountain field excursion to the Arolla covering students majoring in: Physical Geography Geography Environmental Science Water Resource Management

3 Fieldtrip timing Traditional residential fieldweeks – e.g. UK-based, Mediterranean & lower altitude northern European trips are scheduled in the Christmas to late Easter period Snow cover and general weather conditions impose practical and health & safety constraints A Year 2/ Level 2 field trip is only possible in –early Summer (post exam for students finishing 2 nd year) –late Summer (pre-semester for students entering 2 nd year)

4 Early summer: advantages Students have the experience of their second level modules behind them They are more intellectually advanced / academically prepared Sitting on the shoulders of giants?

5 Early summer: disadvantages Field trip is too late to inform dissertation choice Students tired & need break Students want to earn money Students already have dissertation commitments De-mob happy…..

6 Late summer: advantages Students potentially may have a greater apreciation of the background to features seen on fieldwork when they encounter related lecture- based theory in their second year Students may be inspired to do dissertations related to subject matter covered in their fieldweek

7 Late summer: disadvantages No face to face contact in the months prior to departure Limited briefing opportunities Limited access to on-campus resources (library) for remote students Students do not have the depth of knowledge one would normally anticipate from a mid-year or near year end Level 2 student

8 A VLE to control the downsides A VLE to control the downsides The late summer option was favoured as the negatives were more within the control and influence of the academic staff WebCT used to ensure greater accesibility to pre-trip briefing outside term time WebCT used to enhance prior academic knowledge

9 Our principles for WebCT pre- briefing To introduce as much of the academic, administrative and logistical information as early as possible To predict, wherever possible, all the difficulties and last minute questions before they were asked To respond to questions from students on the day that they were asked, or to prior warn students that there would be a specified delay To provide alternative back-up to the VLE in case of technological failings To enter into an e-relationship with the students with as light, enthusiastic and humorous approach as we could muster

10 WebCT was used to ensure that the student should be: Enthused into being a self-starter Equipped with sufficient resources Entered into learning networks unimpeded by barriers and dead-ends caused by limited intellectual resources Encouraged into developing a sense of ownership Embraced into a culture of co-operative learning Energised at the outset

11 Active Learning Learning in which the learner is the principal driving force, with the instructor as the facilitator of the process. Could include experiential learning, co-operative learning, and problem solving for example

12 Engaging students in active learning: an E-enthusing approach Prior knowledge reduces uncertainties & the unknown in the learners mindset Prior knowledge & pre- forged group identity enhances students team- learning & shared working skills Seeding of project & scientific ideas generates a more confident hands-on approach

13 Entry point to the VLE

14 VLE example 1: research resources

15 VLE example 2: types of practical information Health, safety & risk assessment Risk assessments of sites & hazards Health & safety forms to be completed Insurance details & coverStatement on plagiarism & dishonest means Assessment

16 VLE example 3: practical information

17 VLE example 4: communication

18 Staff advantages Provides focal communication point, unlike email Enables early identification of ghost students, or students slow to engage

19 What were the best aspects of WebCT? It had the personal touch; It was nice to see what other people had been saying Being able to communicate with a large group (students and lecturers) and the speed of response Discussion allowed easy access to info The communications available with all students Obvious – reliable contact aid to both lecturers and other students What were the worst aspects of WebCT? Loading time for large files from home (can t be helped really) Sometimes trying to get onto it Access on some occasions I couldn t get on it for ages; also lots of info took ages to download or wouldn t download at all

20 Did you enjoy the visual format and use of icons on WebCT? Yes, it helped to make it more user friendly Yes, it was easy to understand at first glance Yes, it was easy to view & find the info I needed Yes, it made it less effort to figure out what's what Yes, very entertaining & informative Yes, it was well structured and easy to find your way around the site Yes, almost amusing!!! Yes, very funny Yes, it was better than black & white text Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes We think they liked it …

21 Has WebCT made you more aware of research and research journals? Yes it s a lot easier accessing journals this way than in the learning centre Yes very much Not at all

22 Did WebCT enhance your enjoyment of the module? Yes except when it doesn t work Made the trip smooth from the off Have to see if it helps with the report write-up Yes very much Not at all

23 Did you feel that WebCT made you engage more in the module? Boosted morale and made me look forward to it more Yes, because it made me feel more prepared, not only having research but also communicating with everyone else Made communication easier Yes very much Not at all

24 Conclusions WebCT has provided what one student termed a crucial platform for delivering briefing and preparatory sessions in the build up to an out-of- semester residential fieldweek. Furthermore: It has developed a community of learners from students, many of whom had not met or did not know each other It has enhanced the student enjoyment of the module It has enabled the student to engage more in the module It has enhanced the students awareness of academic resources and the culture of reading and citing research journals.

25 From a staff perspective … Massively facilitated the management of fieldwork Facilitated a build-up of rapport with the students prior to fieldwork far greater than in years where conventional briefing lectures were the sole means of engagment Enabled logistical crises and uncertainties to be resolved early Encouraged the development of a resource centre with greater depth and breadth than we would have initiated without the ease of linkage between the www, on-line journals and the VLE

26 Questions remaining Does the VLE change the philosophy of student learning? Is the staff use and positive student evaluation of the VLE a current, passing, fashion?

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