A/Prof Peter T. McTigue, Director, Multimedia Education Unit, The University of Melbourne
UniServe Science News Volume 6 March 1997

CAUT Report

Interactive Teaching & Testing Tutorials for First Year Chemistry

Peter McTigue

This project was supported by CAUT in both 1994 and 1995. The material produced is now known as ChemCAL. Its integration into a mainstream chemistry course at Melbourne University followed the sequence:

in 1994:

The interactive computer-based tutorial packages, integrated with a traditional lecture & laboratory program, were developed and trialled with a class of 150 students, for two one semester units at Melbourne, 161 & 162. Each unit consisted of 39 lectures, 18 hours of laboratory work & 30 hours of workshops & tutorials. The material produced consisted of over 36 (18 per semester) one-hour modules of self-paced tutorial & workshop material using on-screen video & animations, a range of student question formats & several levels of direct feedback to students including Hints & Explanations of the question material. The package was prepared using a new Hypercard-based authoring platform, TutorialTools. The software included built-in logging of all student activity; in addition, direct student feedback is solicited & recorded on all aspects of the material. The package thus provided, for a whole course, self-paced workshop/tutoring material with detailed feedback to both course supervisors & students.

in 1995:

Additional material was written so that the interactive content of the packages covered all of the content covered in the lectures. The 162 group was then split into two streams, 162S ('special'), a small volunteer group, & 162N ('normal'). 162N was taught in the same way as the 1994 162 group. Course delivery for the 162S group was primarily by 25 self-paced interactive packages with lectures reduced from 3 per week to one per week. The single lecture was used both as an 'organiser' lecture & as an opportunity to provide help to students based on their feedback collected from the interactive CAL sessions of the previous week. Small group face-to-face contact in laboratory classes & as a component of workshops was unchanged. Full student evaluation, scaled to student performance in the 161 unit in which all students had the same experience, indicated that student performance in the traditional end of semester written test was the same for both groups. However, students showed a strong liking for the computer-based delivery. A fair sample of the responses to a question asking what it was that students liked most about 162S, elicited the following anonymous responses:

I found the computer sessions and the chalk n' talk sessions the most productive parts of the course.

The flexibility of the 162S course was a big plus. Having more problem-solving experience was also an advantage.

162S allowed me a lot of flexibility in getting my work completed. The cal lab sessions in general were very good. It was good to be doing actual questions whilst learning the new theory. It reinforced the information and aided in understanding difficult concepts.

Not having lectures.

The workshops were generally good. The material most of the time were presented clearly and if the matter arose the lecturer in charge of the workshop was willing to answer question. The chalk and talk sessions have helped with the understanding of the topics being covered. The videos were also good.

The flexibility of the timetable was the biggest advantage of the course as well as being able to go at my own pace. Often in lectures once you lose the 'plot' you are lost for the rest of the lecture.

I liked the flexibility that the computer provided both in that one could work through the tutes at one's own pace not at that of the lecturer and that one could do the tutes whenever time arose and do many in one long session. This helped concentration and enabled much more efficient learning. It was also great how we were tested as we went through the material.

in 1996:

The 162S model was extended to the whole of the 162S class. Results are still being evaluated, but there are no data to suggest that the reduction in the number of formal lectures leads to any significant reduction in student learning.

The material was also used extensively in providing a first year chemistry course at the Cairns campus of James Cook University. Results are still being evaluated.

Team members:

A/Prof Peter T. McTigue,
Director, Multimedia Education Unit, The University of Melbourne
A/Prof Peter A. Tregloan,
School of Chemistry, The University of Melbourne
Dr. Carmel McNaught,
Academic Development Unit, Latrobe University
Dr. Quentin Porter,
School of Chemistry, The University of Melbourne
Mr. Paul A. Fritze,
Multimedia Education Unit, The University of Melbourne

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UniServe Science News Volume 6 March 1997

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