James, S., Morris, G. M & Martinac, B. (2016). Online Science Modules for Transition to University in Health Sciences. ICERI2016 Proceedings,, A. L. Martinez, I. C. Torres
Introduction: Student surveys reveal that learning science presents a challenge to many of our students in the Health Sciences (nursing, midwifery, paramedicine, speech pathology, exercise science, public health and occupational therapy). Students often perceive science as being difficult, with most not having studied science in high school. The transition to University is challenging, and perceived weakness of science skills or innate distrust of science as hard makes that transition more difficult. If students fall behind at the start, or develop an aversion to the subject, then they will struggle for the remainder of their studies. Aim: To provide a voluntary and self-paced learning resource which students can use at the start of university for successful transition to tertiary study, particularly to improve confidence in science. Method: Using successful Teaching Development Grants, two tools were created: ‘Fundamentals of Chemistry Lesson’ in 2014 and ‘Fundamentals of Biology Lesson’ in 2015, which were launched nationally through the University’s Learning Management System. Students enrolled in BIOL121 (Human Biological Sciences 1) could explore essential content through a mix of media (such as text, graphics and video clips) to support those with differing learning preferences. Embedded quizzes assisted students to self-assess and check their understanding as they progress. Formal evaluation of the chemistry lesson was collected through Qualtrics survey from students who provided voluntary informed consent, and the university’s Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) survey. The Biology lesson underwent both independent peer-review by an external evaluator and a focus group of previous year’s students. The research team made a successful ethics application to evaluate the usefulness of the tools in 2015. Survey of students at the largest campus at the end of the year investigated the types of students who used the lessons, how they were used, and the impact of the lessons on students’ achievement in BIOL121. Results: Both modules had been very well received, with more than 1000 students nationally using them in first semester in 2015. Analysis of participant data shows that those who used both lessons achieved a significantly higher average mark for the unit than those who did not use either (73.3% vs 64.0%, t-test p < 0.000). Our mature-age students were strong up-takers of these new tools; a greater proportion of older students used at least one lesson (84% of those aged more than 26, compared to 60% of those aged < 26). BIOL121 SET data shows 82% of students found the lessons helpful in developing their understanding of physiological concepts. Both types of surveys provided very positive views of the resources, with students stating that they found the lessons to be a very useful introduction to the science content of the unit. Conclusion: Construction of the online resources provided a practical solution for improving student performance by increasing their confidence and alleviating anxiety. These tools are easily updated each year, and will be made available through the online sites of relevant units for voluntary use at the students’ own pace. Further critical analysis is needed to control for individual differences affecting student achievement.
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