Many papers discussing learning styles and active learning techniques have been published in the literature and presented at discipline-specific, as well as ASEE, conferences. In general, use of active learning techniques is strongly promoted. However, several difficulties can arise when using active learning techniques. Some problems that faculty encounter during the class meeting time include student resistance to active learning techniques, students being unprepared, and poor classroom design. In addition, students who cannot attend class traditionally miss out on the enriched learning environment that active learning enables. This work investigates how electronic media that are readily available on many campuses can be used to enable active learning gains asynchronously.
The tools were used in a sophomore Chemical Engineering materials and energy balances course that routinely enrolls approximately 100 students per semester. Typically, of those enrolled, 35-50% are not Chemical Engineering majors that may have different backgrounds from the Chemical Engineering students enrolled in the course. The specific tools used to facilitate active learning asynchronously include Desire2Learn (D2L), a course management software application, and OneNote, a program available in Microsoft Office 2007. OneNote allows faculty with a PC Tablet to write on their computer screen and develop real-time notes during a discussion or lecture while also archiving recorded sound from either the laptop microphone or a portable lanyard that is relatively inexpensive to purchase. The combination of the two tools allows students to have 24/7 access to class materials that replay the active learning portions of the course. While students cannot ask live questions when reviewing the archived materials, email enables them to build understanding about topics after the lectures are archived. Fortunately, D2L has functions that allow course instructors to monitor the level of individual student activity on course materials, which was used to evaluated the effectiveness of the media.
The following hypotheses are investigated:
1) Students who miss class will access materials statistically more than those who attend lectures
2) Students who have English as a Second Language (ESL) will more heavily use the archived materials to enable them to translate more carefully the materials covered
3) Students who consistently review content in timely manners perform better than those who have inconsistent access patterns
4) Some patterns of use will be clear indicators of very weak learners that could be coached on how to be better students using quantifiable data of access of other students.
We found that students accessed the archived materials for lectures they missed significantly more often during semesters in which they were required to download the OneNote tool as compared to semesters in which download of OneNote was optional. In addition, we found that ESL students used the archived materials more heavily and a positive impact on their grades was demonstrated. Patterns of use showed that timely use of materials indicated mature students who were ready to move on, while other patterns indicated very weak students who needed coaching on how to use their resources more effectively.
This work shows how the synergies of online materials that are not directly active can help support active learning methods in courses.
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