Breakout session A:
Technology as a solution to implementing active-learning pedagogies...

Breakout session A
Technology as a solution to implementing active-learning pedagogies: Opportunities and barriers

Saturday, November 22, 2003
10:30 am - 11:45 pm

Ann C. Smith, Director, Undergraduate Programs, Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics- University of Maryland College Park

Questions to be addressed:

  • How can technology be used to solve some barriers associated with adding active learning options to large classes
  • What are the barriers
  • If done in lab or discussion sessions, how to involve TA's
  • How to:
    • monitor/guide/coach discussions
    • assess participation/performance
    • organize students into groups
    • distribute and collect materials/feedback from students
  • By adding an online environment to the large enrollment course, can we expand learning options offered to students, such as peer learning, small group discussions, problem based learning, case-based learning, writing options
  • By adding an online environment, is there a forum to provide feedback to students? How are on-line quiz tools being used to assess student content knowledge and concept understating?
  • How can an on-line course component be interfaced effectively with lab, and lecture such that the links between lab, lecture, and the on-line area provide a cohesive learning environment? Can we use the on-line environment to engage students in active learning? Can the on-line environment be used a venue to prepare students for lecture and lab?
  • Considering the idea that the interested expert is more engaged when listening to a lecture in their area of knowledge than a novice listening to the same lecture, can we use technology to prime our students for the learning that will come from listening to a lecture or participating in a lab?
  • What are the components of a successful on- line discussion?. Can technology be used to engage students in small group discussions on targeted topics? How can discussions be guided? Monitored? Assessed?
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages to use of technology for distribution of course information? Advantages may include: ready access, easy to update, can provide linked resources, allows students to increase competency with technology that will be important in future careers in science. Disadvantages may include: student access to computers, technology support on campus, students expect immediate responses to posted questions.
  • Can we use the on-line environment to assess student misconceptions regarding course material and then assess this information and design assignments etc to help students correct misconceptions. Can we use the on-line environment for inquiry-based assignments and to model how scientists work? Can we development assignments that link lecture, lab and on-line in a way that allows students to learn the processes involved in being a scientist?

The General Microbiology course (BSCI 223) at the University of Maryland College Park:

In our large enrollment multi-section microbiology course, we have used an online environment as a time/place to engage each student in the consideration of concepts that are introduced in lab and lecture.

We have developed a WebCT-supported, online learning environment where students may access course information and resources, review lecture material with links to further reading, take online quizzes that provide immediate feedback, and communicate with each other, the course instructors, and TA’s. Further, we have been experimenting with new ways to engage students using the online vehicle as a site for student participation. We have been successful in using WebCT to deliver case studies and support problem-based learning. Our success has been gauged by our ability to increase student involvement compared to semesters where we did not use technology: in Spring 2003, each of our 250 students posted individual comments online to case study problems nine times during the semester. Each student participated in a month-long online small group discussion relating to a case study-based issue. For this discussion, each student was required to complete research using online databases and post four messages to the discussion. In Spring 2003 the average number of postings in the small group discussions exceeded the number of required postings. We have also gauged our success from student feedback – very positive with respect to our use of the online environment, and our ability to recruit undergraduate teaching assistants to our mission. This semester we have 400 students in our online area and 22 UTA’s (one for each lab section). Sixty of our previous students applied for the opportunity to work as a UTA.

We have developed a vehicle for increased student engagement and are now investigating the effect on student learning. Questions for discussion: can we use technology-based work to prime our students for the learning experiences available in lecture and lab? Can we use the on-line environment to assess student misconceptions regarding course material and then design assignments, etc. to help students correct misconceptions? Can we develop assignments that link lecture, lab, and online in a way that allows students to learn the processes involved in being a scientist?