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University Science Teaching And The Web

Workshop Abstracts

Keynote Speaker Associate Professor Shirley Alexander, Director, Institute for Interactive Multimedia, University of Technology, Sydney

Title: Internet-based teaching and learning: the past and the future
Keynote Speaker Professor Peter Lee, Dean of Engineering, Murdoch University

Title: On-Line Engineering Experiences

Abstract: This paper describes the experiences gained through implementing on-line courses for Engineering education at Murdoch University. It describes the process by which the School of Engineering embarked on the process of developing its entire curriculum as suitable for web-based delivery, and the important considerations that lead to a successful implementation of this strategy. It also describes both good and bad examples of web-based delivery, and suggests future developments required to further enhance the learning experience.
Paper Bruno A. Gaeta, Kirsten Balding and Timothy Littlejohn, Australian Genomic Information Centre

Title: Web-based virtual protocols for bioinformatics education

Abstract: The many genome projects initiated in the last few years have brought about an explosion in the amount of DNA and protein sequence and structure data available to biologists. Computers have become an essential tool in the analysis of this information, and as a result, there is a growing demand among molecular biologists for education in bioinformatics, a new field of study at the forefront of computer science and molecular genetics.

The Australian National Genomic Information Service (ANGIS) is an Internet-based service providing Australian molecular biologists with access to a large collection of databases and software for genome analysis. ANGIS has also been providing its users with a range of educational services, including courses and teaching manuals. However many research scientists have been unable to take advantage of these services, which provide a broad coverage of a large range of software but require a substantial time commitment.

This problem is being addressed by the development of WWW-based 'virtual' bioinformatics protocols for use with WebANGIS, the Web interface to ANGIS. These protocols provide step by step instructions (much as a recipe book) and demonstrate complex bioinformatics procedures requiring the specialized application of a combination of software components. Through advanced WWW technology, the protocols can be integrated with the software whose use they demonstrate so that relevant programs are launched automatically as the user steps through the protocol. This approach should allow researchers to learn the use of the software they need when they need it, using their own experimental data or data from public databases available on ANGIS. It can also be applied to undergraduate biology teaching to create 'virtual practicals' demonstrating a range of bioinformatics techniques.
Paper Charlotte Brack, Kristine Elliott, Graham Parslow and Bruce Livett, University of Melbourne

Title: The Evolution of Computer-based Tutorials towards Web delivery

Abstract: Production of computer based tutorials using the DOS-based Q Instruction Package began in the Department in 1985. With the availability of more versatile authoring packages with enhanced visual presentation and non-linear navigation we switched, in 1995, to producing tutorials in ToolBook. The resulting tutorials had an interface that was easier to use and ran in a Windows environment. We also developed a program to convert our suite of 60 'Q' tutorials into ToolBook format so preserving the time invested in developing their academic content. A further transformation of these ToolBook tutorials to Web delivery became possible with the release of ToolBook II (version 5). However, this conversion was limited and for total Web delivery it proved more efficient to transform the 'Q' tutorials directly into HTML. This relatively rapid transformation resulted in Web deliverable tutorials containing text, graphics and multiple choice questions with feedback (JavaScript). The use of hyperlinks and frame tags enabled non-linear navigation, and the inclusion of simple animations (GIF files) further enhanced the visual impact of these tutorials. This material is currently under evaluation.
Paper Craig Burton, The University of Melbourne

Title: An Author Usability Trial for the Networked Assessment Toolkit (NEST)

Abstract: A usability study was carried out for NEST, an authoring tool mounted on the WWW. We briefly outline the purpose of the NEST tool and provide conclusions on the effectiveness of its WWW-mounted interface. The WWW-interface for NEST is of non-trivial complexity and provides a relevant case study for mounting an arbitrary application in the WWW.

We find that a user's expectation for interface performance and layout must be balanced against the client footprint size and the volume of their interaction with the server. Also discussed is the manner in which this result also applies to simpler WWW-mounted applications such as exams, tutorials and questionnaires.
Paper James R. Dalziel, The University of Sydney and Scott Gazzard, eventHorizon Software

Title: WebMC: A Web-based multiple choice assessment system

Abstract: Assessment using multiple choice questions is increasingly common within modern educational practice, in part because of the cost-effective nature of this mode of assessment. The recent expansion of the World Wide Web (Web), and its incorporation into teaching and learning in higher education, presents the opportunity of providing student assessment that: (1) requires no written resources, (2) is automatically and immediately marked, (3) is computer-platform independent, and (4) can provide feedback on incorrect answers. The current study reports on the development and evaluation of "WebMC", a Web-based multiple choice assessment system that capitalises on all of the above advantages of the Web in a unified assessment package. The system developed was successfully used with a First Year Psychology course of over 1200 students for formative assessment related to an end of semester quiz. During the month in which WebMC was available on the Web, over 10,000 hits on the main page were recorded, and over 1000 First Year Psychology students used WebMC. Many students used WebMC for several hours (in total) over multiple sessions. A link at the bottom of the main page invited students to complete an evaluation of WebMC, and 275 responses were recorded. These responses were overwhelmingly positive: on a 7 point scale regarding the quality of WebMC as a learning resource, 61% of respondents indicated WebMC was "(1) excellent", and 28% indicating it was "(2) very good" (there were no scores below "(4) average"). Qualitative feedback indicated that WebMC provided informative and timely feedback which students appreciated, and many students commented that using WebMC had encouraged them to study their quiz material further. WebMC is currently being developed for commercial use, with additional features to assist course coordinators in constructing questions and analysing responses.
Paper Elizabeth M. Deane, University of Western Sydney, Nepean

Title: Exploring the values of the Web in an undergraduate immunology program

Abstract: In 1994, with funding from a CAUT grant, a year 3 immunology program was developed focussed on using a problem-solving approach to laboratory exploration but supported in its delivery by a web text browser. This text provided students with fundamental details of immunological structure and function, contained experimental protocols and anticipated outcomes, a reference list, a glossary of terms, meanings and pronunciations and links to a number of relevant sites. This material is continually being modified in the light of student feedback and the increase in useful web sites.

The use and effectiveness of this material in supporting student learning has been evaluated over the 4 years since its introduction. This presentation will explore student perceptions of the value of this resource for this particular subject. Issues such as comparative usefulness of texts, research literature, staff and web site; modifications required to increase student appreciation; costs, benefits and limitations will be addressed.
Paper Pal Fekete, Brian McInnes, Paul Walker, The University of Sydney

Title: Using the Web to help lecturers teach physics better

Abstract: During 1995 and 1996 Pal Fekete developed a database on the Web that describes a collection of resources, such as demonstrations and interactive questions, that could be used in a lecture course on Thermal Physics. The original database was intended for use by academics when preparing lecture courses and tutorials, and was documented to encourage academics to develop deep learning strategies in their courses.

This talk will describe the database of resources and discuss how these resources may be used by academics in its current format. Some discussion on the conversion to student resource will also be included. Although this talk will centre on Thermal Physics the implications of this work extend to ALL disciplines in Physics and also the other Sciences including Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy and so on.
Paper David Green, University of Technology, Sydney

Title: Learning Dialogues using the World Wide Web

Abstract: On-line discussion tools (email, newsgroups and synchronous chat) have been employed and developed to foster "learning dialogues" in students in a second year physics subject[1,2].

The potential of online methods in the teaching of advanced science concepts has been realised, and is most effective when the strategies employed to involve students are well designed[3]. In this paper I will describe a successful implementation of the "learning dialogues" concept. It has involved the use of electronic discussion groups in a prework mode, using open questions that probe prior knowledge (or monitor weekly progress), and involve a combination of peer review and feedback from a "virtual tutor". Issues relating to students' use of the technology, and strategies employed to encourage their access to, and involvement in, electronic learning are described. The evaluation of a single subject, the implications for resources, together with a description of a broadening of the concept to create virtual learning centres in science, will be outlined.

[1] UTS VCDF Funded Project 1996 Creating Meaningful Learning Dialogues using the WWW
[2] UTS VCDF Funded Project 1997 An Integrated Approach to Electronic Mode Flexible Learning
[3] Ed Taylor A Different Kind of Mateship OzCUPE2 Conference Melbourne 1995
Paper Suzanne Hogg, University of Technology, Sydney and Rosemary Penman, Addison-Wesley Longman

Title: "ActivPhysics" - an innovative "webway" of packaging and delivering physics

Abstract: Amongst the overall puzzle for publishers of how to package up learning materials Addison-Wesley's "ActivPhysics" stands out by its use of Netscape as the navigation tool. By using such a standard and well-understood format it ensures that the academic or student can apply their endeavours to finding and understanding the material rather than having first to overcome the ordeal of learning yet another package. Not only does this mean that the provided material can be easily accessed and used - but it can be integrated either live or with a local server providing material from www sources. To help the lecturer prepare richly resourced lecture material in this way an extra tool is provided in the form of "ActivPad", which makes the assembly of a multiplicity of net material in an orderly fashion.
Paper Peter K. Love, Centre for Flexible Learning, Macquarie University

Title: Simulation of a Tutor in Flexibly Delivered Atmospheric Science Undergraduate Units

Abstract: In 1997, building on earlier work, the Atmospheric Science group at Macquarie University initiated the transition of its undergraduate coherency to a flexible mode where all teaching components except essential third year field work was to be available via the Internet. One of the challenges of this development is the design and implementation of interactive practicals. In particular, the simulation of some of the role filled by a tutor.

Technologies employed in the project include HTML, JavaScript, CGI interfaces to complex models, visualisation and animation. This paper will outline how these are used in some of the material to facilitate student learning. Examples will include stepped solutions to mathematical problems, animation of graphs, self-checking, dis-aggregation of complex graphs, cross-linking between lecture, practical and assignment material and the inclusion of current or recent, real-world examples of atmospheric phenomena.
Paper Mary Peat and Sue Franklin, The University of Sydney

Title: First Year Biology Teaching on the Web: to lure and catch the imagination of the students

Abstract: First Year Biology Teaching at The University of Sydney involves repeat lecture series, multiple concurrent laboratory sessions, seemingly never ending reports to mark and vast numbers of examination papers to grade. The sheer size can lead to impersonal interactions between the staff (in dwindling numbers) and the students (in increasing numbers). Since the late 1980's teaching methodologies and scenarios have been put in place to put the emphasis on small group teaching in large classes and student centred learning. Since 1992 the use of the personal computers has led the way to an explosion of material and delivery modes for teaching and assessment tasks. More recently the Web has allowed the development of virtual communication between the staff and students. The paper will present the development and evaluation of the use of the Web in First Year Biology for delivery of course materials, for formative and summative assessment and for general communication with students. In particular the evolution of a virtual resources room will be described and its impact on the students discussed.
Paper Ian Roberts, The University of Adelaide

Title: Online resources - a systematic solution

Abstract: Projects to place teaching and other resources online have proliferated in recent years as have software products that ease the task of producing pretty documents.

But, if University teachers, Researchers and Administrators are going to create significant online resources then they need tools that allow a complete system to be generated efficiently and managed sustainably. While the ability to present information attractively and incorporate sophisticated elements is essential, the prime requirements of an effective system are efficient information retrieval coupled with convenient navigation. We must build libraries not black holes.

Adelaide Science Online is a project in the Faculty of Science at the University of Adelaide that is using Lotus Notes/Domino to develop database solutions to contemporary online challenges. Working with teaching staff we are developing simple database structures that can be populated by subject specialists.
Paper Deidre Tronson and Deborah Veness, UWS-Hawkesbury

Title: Exploring the value of integrating WWW chemistry teaching with the Hawkesbury Shell

This is Hawkesbury's attempt to provide some support and assistance to academics who wish to explore the kinds of teaching facilitated by WWW and the Internet.

The purpose of this project is to:
* develop and implement a generic and adaptable Shell and infrastructure for flexible teaching and learning using the Internet/Intranet
* co-ordinate the development and implementation of Web-based teaching projects at UWS-Hawkesbury
* establish organisational support structures for flexible Web-based delivery, including quality assurance mechanisms.

This subject is provided for "internal" and "external" students who are not science-majors, or who are Diploma students. Some of the courses undertaken by students of this subject are horticulture, environmental health, environmental management, food technology and agriculture. We regard their needs as being extremely special; certainly not identical to the needs of a student undertaking first-year chemistry with the aim of continuing studies in the physical sciences.

The purpose of developing a Web-based version of this subject is to:
* provide more flexible learning opportunities for both internal and external students
* provide some hard "content" as a pilot project for the Shell
* enable (through the Shell structure) individual modules to be taken as "pay as you go" revision or bridging-course study aids for pre-tertiary students.

We are at the frustrating stage of:
* having a small amount finished and on a stand alone web-site
* having insufficient money left on our original Grant to do any more
* looking for alternative ways of ensuring the project continues.

These issues will be briefly outlined, and then thrown to the audience for debate.
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