Towards high quality e-learning of chemical technology
Page content transcription
If your browser does not render page correctly, please read the page content below
Towards high quality e-learning of chemical technology P. Pietikäinen, K. Vilonen Department of Biotechnology and Chemical Technology Faculty of Chemistry and Materials sciences Helsinki University of Technology (TKK), P.O.Box 6100, FI-02015 TKK, Finland e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Abstract During recent years a wide variety of technical possibilities to apply e-learning tools has been created. Nowadays most courses have at least informative material in electronic form (e.g. www-pages) and e-mail as well as discussion areas are used. But how does this all become e-learning of high quality? In addition to the material delivery and implementation of new electronic tools the (e-)learning process requires support in technical matters and especially activation of learning processes. The learning does not happen automatically with help of effective teaching, because there is a need of studying, gathering knowledge and learning to apply it. The experiences of co-operation between teachers, a clear need for quality management to standardize approaches of e-learning has been found. International co-operation would emphasize this requirement even more. In this paper we report experiences of developing of courses in which web or virtual learning environment has been utilized. Also the drafted frame of quality in e-learning of chemical technology is presented. Both technical and pedagogical aspects are considered. There is a need for increasing co-operation between teachers, both in planning and in implementation of web-based teaching. The adjustment of thinking of assessment of teaching to assessment of learning is a big but essential change in the way towards higher quality of (e-)learning. In addition to proper technical equipment, the ability to utilize enthusiasm among the teachers who carry out the development, is a key issue in developing (e-)learning. Keywords quality, e-learning, assessment 1. INTRODUCTION ITC is utilized at majority of courses also in Helsinki University of Technology (TKK). Courses have informative www-pages and e-mail is used as information channel. By autumn 2008 all courses of the university are to have uniform web information layout in common portal called Noppa . Through that uniform portal basic information such as short description, teaching period, lectures, exercises and dates for exams will be available for all. In addition of general information students can also see the course material by signing in to the system. Virtual learning environments (VLE) have also been used to inform and deliver material. These make the interaction between teachers and students as well as student groups possible. By applying VLE also co-operation between universities can be enhanced since VLEs makes the learning independent of place. However, learners’ commitment to a course in a virtual environment without meeting teachers and co-learners might be difficult to obtain. On the other hand, a course containing only lectures doesn’t necessarily gain students’ commitment even though the topics would be interesting and lecturers’ talented specialists. Timetables of courses that are fixed to certain periods of teaching may also cause problems. Blended learning , meaning the combination of contact learning and learning activities in web seems to be a fruitful way to improve the quality of learning. From the pedagogical point of view the quality of e-learning is seen as learning outcomes . If the learning is considered not to happen directly from teaching but via active studying, the learning process is to be focused in .
When the quality of learning is considered activation of learning process and assessment of learning seem to be the key issue. Other important things are: • Appropriate teaching methods (pedagogically relevant technology used, considering the context) • High quality material (clear, structured, instructive) • Effective delivery of information • Support and guidance (both technical and tutorial) One challenge in enhancing e-learning is the changing role of teacher who former was considered as a transformer of the knowledge and now should act as facilitator of learning process. In order to overcome this challenge the pedagogical background of teaching has to be carefully planned and appropriate tools are to be evaluated for each case. Activation of learning process is important in order to attain high quality learning. The role of ICT in activation is extremely important, especially in blended learning, where web-based teaching is combined with contact learning. Figure 1 describes two ways how students use their time in studying. It is generated based on discussions with students and course feedback gathered during years. Way I is the one where students attend lectures and are expected to study at home which they hardly do. In the end of the course there is an exam for what students use couple of days with the material. Often there are several exams during e.g. a week which makes this kind of studying extremely challenging. In Way II students work with learning activities during whole the course Amount of learning at course • Way I – Lectures/contact learning – Self studies? – Exam • Way II – Lectures/contact learning – Learning activities Duration of the course Figure 1. Ways how students use time during course. Differences between younger and older generation i.e. students and teachers has been found in their attitudes towards e-learning. The students are used to different ITC tools already in their childhood whereas university teachers are just learning to utilize the possibilities of the tools. One example of recent development is Web 2.0 tools, which seems to offer interesting possibilities for e-learning by offering social learning environments. These differences in thinking and action arising from different background are challenging also the university education. Changes are needed in the methodology of teaching and new ITC tools will be inseparable part of the development. Implementation of new technologies brings along challenges such as balancing the importance of substance taught and technique used for teaching. However, the pedagogical issues should never be forgotten when learning process is planned . 2. EXPERIENCES OF WEB-AIDED TEACHING 2.1 Blended learning At course Modern Methods for Polymer Analysis are students at Master and Post graduate levels. The post graduate students work either in universities or in industry. The course is carried out in co-operation of TKK and Helsinki University (UH). Lectures are carried out at organizing universities which made it possible for students to make new friends and get to know other laboratories. To pass the course students are: - to attend lectures (9 all together, 3 days) - to write learning diary to assess own learning and to give feedback - to write three (3) essays of themes of lectures (the rest of the group did comment them in their own home group in WebCT)
- to write 6 references of scientific articles dealing with analysis method of the week possibly from a point of view of students’ research topic For students who are more interested in subjects of the course it is possible to make a written seminar work that is presented in the end of the course. Groups of 3-4 students were formed and the group stood three weeks after which teachers formed new groups. This is how students got to know as many co-learners as possible. The VLE (Optima/WebCT) of our course included: - general information of the course - calendar including important dates of the course - literal material of the lectures and links to important websites concerning analysis methods handled in the lectures - students’ contact information - area for group work (essays and summaries) and learning diaries - area for discussion - area for seminar works 2.1.1 Feedback from the teachers One challenge has been the new way to organize a course. The planning of teaching and learning activities as well as taking over the technique needed for e-learning environment took a lot of time. One point that was considered carefully was the students’ need for support, especially in the beginning of the course. Most of the students were not familiar with our VLE Optima. It has been possible for students to attend a teaching session in computer class where they can try the features with teachers. After that support has worked out via e-mail. During the course it was extremely interesting to follow the learning process of students. Few found learning diaries for their new learning tools. Learning diaries were also an on-line feedback forum because students asked freely questions about the subject studied and the course in common. The questions were mostly answered at the discussion forum of the course. Especially in the first time the course was carried (2003) out in blended way teachers spent enormous amount of time in web waiting for students’ comments. Later they found it useful to tell students that they would attend course area for example every twice a week afternoon and times of dead lines. Sending e-mail to teacher was not encouraged. 2.1.2 Feedback from the students For students the different activities of the course were easy to adopt. Any kind of VLE was not familiar to most of the students and it was the first time many of them wrote learning diaries but they managed mostly well with the instruction given. Students found their role as experts in commenting each other work a little strange and in some cases they did not dare to correct each other even though teachers were encourage them. Work load of the course was criticized. This is understandable because most of the students were not used to study actively throughout the course. Teachers had, however, prepared to this kind of discussion with careful designing of the course and emphasized students to tally time they spent with this course. VLE was not problem for students regardless firewall that restricted someones’ studying at work. Their commitment into group work was rather mild. They did just the things that they had to do but discussion and commenting was minimal. 2.1.3 General feedback In the beginning of courses like this informing can not be emphasized too much. Different learning activities are to be made clear and motivated for the students in order to reach true commitment. The aims of learning as well as learning tools used are to be introduced as well as technical requirements needed. The weekly time table is also to be underlined because this kind of active learning is not familiar to all students that might be used to sleeping (if attending at all) the lectures and studying just a couple of days before the exam. For some teachers it is difficult to live without an exam. How can we really assess students’ learning by reading their essays, article references and learning diary? An other question is, should grades be given or is it enough to just pass the course. Grades would certainly motivate some of the students.
2.2 Web-aided contact teaching A couple of examples of traditional lecture courses at which web have been utilized mostly as information and material delivery tool are presented. 2.2.1 Lectures supported by material handling and information delivery in VLE Activating teaching methods, such as weekly calculations and small exercises, are used with lectures to enhance learning in the first year university course for chemical engineering students (course Introduction to chemical processes). The activating methods are planned to support student-centered learning and they play an important role in “forcing” students to study during the whole course, not only before exam, according the example shown in figure 1. VLE (Optima) enabled the delivery of exercises and later the model answers easier and faster, which is important in six weeks course period. Students were also able to return their answers with VLE and around 35 % of students used this possibility. Also the lectured materials were delivered through VLE. Students’ questions were answered in a discussion area of VLE, which was for teacher much easier than an e-mail in course having almost 100 students. Another example is a second year basic course, Basics in Process Technology, where the main course performance has been a traditional one with lectures and calculation exercises. The elements of blended learning were the use of internet for course news and materials delivery and computer exercises using simulation programs. 2.2.2 Individual self-study material combined with lectures An example of a virtual course is, also a first year university course (course Ideal Reactors). There is actually two ways to take this course. The traditionally taught version of the course consisted of lectures and calculation exercises and internet mainly used for course news and materials delivery. Few years ago totally virtual version of the same course was developed - the content of course material is available in web-form, including small exercises and quizzes. The virtual course was developed in order to offer for students a possibility to study regardless of the place and time. Virtual tutor is available in the VLE for guidance in both substance and technical matters. The students that are willing to complete the course in a web may create their schedule for the course according to individual requirements. The only limitation given by the course administration is that five exercises with both theoretical and calculation questions have to be returned and passed before taking part in final exam. The final exam is the same as for conventionally lectured course. 2.2.3 General observations based on feedback from both students and teachers According to the questionnaire made last year to the first year students, most of the students (60-70%) were satisfied with traditionally taught courses with materials and exercises delivered via the internet. Around 20-25% of students would be interested in the possibility of studying the whole course using web-based material and virtual learning environment. This might be especially good solution for students having needs for individually organized time tables e.g. in a case students is sickness or staying abroad when the traditionally lectured course takes place. This possibility is especially important in the case of a basic course having around 100 students per year and content that is preliminary knowledge for further studies. Individual course feedback of utilization of VLE combined with lecture was similar to the results from study questionnaire. Students were clearly more interested in web-based studying combined with contact teaching than pure virtual courses. This was also seen in the case of aforementioned virtual course (Ideal reactors). The web- material was used beside lectures but not many students studied the whole course virtually. One reason might be that first and even second year students prefer contact learning because it offers support for their learning process. Another reason was probably the low quality of the virtual course material. There is a need of improving instructions and pedagogical matters are to be considered more carefully when further versions are developed. 2.3 Future aspects It can be concluded that most students preferred blended learning, the combination of contact and web-based teaching, although there are significant minority of students that were interested in totally virtual courses. The goal is to serve both of these groups in the future. The offering of individual web-based possibility together with web-aided
contact teaching needs extra work in the development of study material, but with careful planning and co-operation this is possible. The important thing is the simultaneous planning of web courses and the course having traditional lectures with web-aided activation methods, because with partly the same material it is possible to offer support for all students regardless their studying strategy. Another important thing in the development of web-based teaching is to remember the continuous evaluation of teaching methods and learning outcomes. This is naturally important in teaching generally but is underlined in cases of courses at which students study independently. The scheduling of the students and also the teachers work during the web-based course in one of the key issues towards the quality of e-learning. 3. CONCIDERATIONS OF QUALITY OF LEARNING The quality tool presented here has been sketched based on Voplaa quality frame created by pedagogical unit of Helsinki University (in Finnish http://www.vopla.fi/tyokaluja/) . It has been formulated for one major in faculty of Chemical Technology and Material Sciences at Helsinki University of Technology. The main goal of the quality frame is to guide teachers’ work and make the assessment and development of e-learning more systematic and transparent. The present stage is described in first column in realistic and way because although web-based teaching has applied already years there are still many things to be improved. The second column describes the building of better practices and aspects to be considered. In the third column ideas of maintenance and development are combined emphasizing the idea that teacher or teaching methods at any course will never be totally ready and continuous development is required. The important role in this process of development plays interaction between students and teachers and feedback gathered continuously In general the development of e-learning in our major is still in the implementation phase, column 2 in quality frame (Diagram 1). It will still take a few years to reach the targeted level of maintenance and continuous development. The most important role of this kind of quality frame is to bring questions of learning and teaching of high quality visible.
Diagram 1. Developing frame of quality of (e-)learning of one major at TKK. Maintenance/ Present stage Implementation Development Management Unclear strategies of e- Depends strongly from Teachers are collecting learning teacher to another feed back at their courses. ⇒ lack of organization ⇒ teachers who are The most important thing is Practices vary form lab to willing and able do what to find appropriate methods lab. they like of teaching for each situation. Technique is not CHALLENGE No special support for e- to guide development. - delivery of good practices teaching can be obtained - organized collection of There is Information channel of feed back, also during - general ITC support experiences and support is courses - experiences of to be generated. colleagues - support of TKK CHALLENGE Pedagogical resource descriptions of changes centre needed Competence Teacher Ability to No clear plan of 1)produces the content - choose appropriate tools developing skills of 2) deals with the - collect assessment personnel technical realization information - find support The strategy of assessment Roles of teachers and its utilization is under - enthusiastic Courses for personnel of development - passive TKK - pessimistic Encouragement: Courses of TKK - research and development Attitude of students organization of teaching of own teaching towards e-learning is development -- contact situations positive. -- e-learning Students prefer blended learning compared to www-learning. Resources No separate resources for Formulation of strategies May be that one day e-learning activity in development of Role of e-learning is settling (e-)teaching can be seen in TKK supports technically its place ⇒ e-learning salary. Optima VLE becomes part of everyday teaching Aims co-operation and effectiveness.
Diagram 1. Developing frame of quality of (e-)learning of one major at TKK. (Continues) Prosesses Preparation of materials 1) More emphasis on course After description of in separate developing planning processes processes, the methods of projects quality assessment and 2) Emphasis on stage wise utilization thereof can be TKK is in process of continuous development created. applying NOPPA portal that will standardize 3) Development of e- www-pages of all learning that has courses. pedagogically high standards Part time ITC support in some laboratories. Assessment Feedback from students Definition of appropriate Implementation of - discussions during indicators continuous feedback teaching collection and utilization - course feedback Indicators for quality goals? model. - results of exams - free, spontaneous Right timing of gathering of feedback assessment information? Self assesment of Development of feed back teachers system Utilizing of gathered assessment information 4. CONCLUSIONS Teaching and learning processes are now in exciting stage of development. The understanding of features and challenges of e-learning is growing and steps towards standardization of e-learning of high quality are being taken. Blended learning that combines conventional contact learning with activation of learning by internet has found its place also in universities. Lively discussion has aroused here at TKK and the structural change from departments to larger faculties makes possible new ways of co-operation also in the filed of development of teaching and hopefully especially of learning in order to provide competitive education also for future engineers. 5. REFERENCES 1. https://noppa.tkk.fi/noppa/app 2. Charles D. Dziuban, Joel L. Hartman, Patsy D. Moskal, Blended Learning, EDUCAUSE Research Bulletin, 7 (2004) 1-12. (http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erb0407.pdf) 3. Ulf-Daniel Ehlers, Lutz Goertz, Barbara Hildebrandt, Jan M. Pawlowski, Quality in e-learning, Use and dissemination of quality approaches in European e-learning A study by the European Quality Observatory, Cedefop Panorama series 116, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2005. (http://www2.trainingvillage.gr/etv/publication/download/panorama/5162_en.pdf) 4. Karen L. Evans, Gaea Leinhardt, A Cognitive Framework for the Analysis of Online Chemistry Courses, J. Sci. Educ. Technol. 17 (2008), 100–120. 5. http://www.vopla.fi/in_english/
You can also read