They first looked at some strategies to encourage students to complete homework. They initially identified some assumptions around digital literacy and technical skills, and then identified 4 elements for the learning design - authenticity, motivation, scaffolding and skills development (the main focus). Equity was a really important factor too.
The course that was trialled was a First year pharmacy course (P101), where they have about 100 students per year. There is a group assignment that runs through the mid-semester break with 4-5 students randomly allocated per group. A specific example of a student who had to travel to Auckland to complete the group assignment. Trudi had been to a workshop on Wikis, and Trudi had an 'ah ha' moment where she felt that if they put everything online then the students would be able to complete the course requirements online.
The final design of the assignments included an ePoster, and an oral presentation of the poster, a written summary of the work, and provision of 3 references with justification. All of these were completed online.
The ideas was also to provide flexible access to the resources and tools, to be able to monitor student collaborations in groups tasks and manage assessment of the assignment better, and they were also keen for students to develop some skills that they could use later on. Information and structure was provided through the course website, and scaffolded inquiry was developed through the format of a webquest. Collaborative learning was conducted via a wiki (Wikispaces), and social bookmarking was encouraged. Exemplars were provided to help scaffold students.
The webquest was designed around a scenario which also aimed to have a social impact aspect rather than purely focussing on the various concerns around a specific disease. The process was outlined as a list of things students needed to do to complete a specific task, along with access to the rubrics that would be used to assess their assignments. Fifteen percent of the P101 course marks are allocated to this assignment. 'How To' guides were provided around using some of the technologies, as well as guidelines for collaboration, confidence and familiarity with working with other people online.
Results: A pre and post assignment survey (54 out of 99 completed the assignment).77.8% agreed that the webquest added value, 51.9% agreed that the webquest contained enough information, 68.5% would be confident to use them in future assignments, 51.9% agreed that the assignment tasks helped them develop transferable skills, and 75% thought that the assignment developed their ability to work in a team.
Findings: Providing the tools does not guarantee student engagement; and targeted strategies for fostering group work are needed beyond the provision of collaborative tools.
A useful piece of research that showed lecturers responding to student needs in creative ways...that ended up getting really good results :-) Will be interesting to see where they go next.
Image at the top of the post: Image via Wikipedia
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