Friday, 13 February 2015

Flipping in study skills: ICT Literacies for Science Students

The following describes the latest iteration in our flipped classroom approach for the effective deployment of study skills within curriculum. This outlines the need to ensure students had the skills and competencies to create flow diagrams (decision trees), as they need to apply them in an assessed piece of work on Biology of Disease (Level 5 module).

In the previous year, this session was run as a two hour computer based Microsoft Visio workshop for around 40 students.

However, we have been challenging this traditional model, on a number of issues;
  1. is this really the most effective way to teach some one how to create a flow diagram?
  2. it doesn't account for their previous knowledge and skills. Why does a person need to attend a teaching session if they already have the skills, and can demonstrate them? Surely, we should focus our limited resources on those who need the greatest help?
  3. in the increasingly fluid, cloud based, "world of software", should we be so prescriptive about the software they have to use? Surely, we should develop their digital literacies to enable them to make appropriate and informed choices which align with their needs.
Firstly, I'd like to thank Tom Ranson (e-Learning, UCS Science & Technology) for co-developing this implementation.

What did we do and why?

The following learning design outlines the workflow. The embedded video walks through the online aspect.

How did the online learners find the learning experience?

Very encouragingly, 29 completed the pre-session activity, and eight attended the face to face workshop (13 students were invited to attend given they'd not submitted).

A short follow up survey was undertaken for those who submitted online. There was a response rate of 28% (8 out of 29), so the caveat holds, take the following with a pinch of salt. The survey results indicated "their knowledge and skills of using the software to create flow diagrams has improved since completing the online activity" (3 strongly agreed, 5 agreed). This was against a backdrop of 6 out of 8 respondents never having created a flow diagram using software (such as visio, powerpoint etc).

Overall, when asked, having completed the online activity, how would you prefer to learn the skills,
  • seven opted for completing the online activity to cover the skills
  • one opted for attending a one hour workshop to cover the skills
When asked to justify their answers, the majority of responses can be summed up as;
  • "I feel the online activity was sufficient for me personally, as I felt the background learning (self-study) helped me to understand the process"
  • "I don't feel I need to attend the workshop as I have learnt independently enough to use visio to my requirements"
The response which would have preferred the workshop was the need to ask questions and address any difficulties faced. This theme was mirrored in discussions with those who attended the face to face workshop. Where (2 out of 8) made reference to broader ICT digital literacies, so preferred to have the safety net of a facilitated session to gain the required skills.

How can we improve it?

The current position has been an iterative development of implementations in other subject areas. Therefore, the overarching learning design is fine. On reflection, areas of further improvement would include;

  1. clearer instructions on the choice they need to make in terms of the delivery style. When we discussed with the group who attended the workshop, a common theme was they were not aware of the online option (2 out of 8), while some thought the face to face would best because they might have questions which need answering (2 out of 8). More effective communication and expectation management at the start of the activity might have meant these people would have completed online.
  2. encourage more flexibility in terms of the flow diagram they can create. Our expectations where they'd submit a flow diagram which looked like the one we provided, plus some personalisation. Interestingly, very few actually submitted the suggest flow diagram, and either an iteration of their assignment or topics aligned to their decisions. However, these all meet the requirements. Therefore, for next year, we will relax the conditions, and allow them to submit a decision flow diagram on any topic.
  3. feedback from the online survey indicated some people spent a significant time researching the meanings of the different shapes used in a decision tree / flow diagram. For next year we'll explore the inclusion of FAQs around what do the different boxes mean.

If you have any questions, about how Learning Services at UCS can help include study skills into your course, please email us.

With thanks - Image -

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