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An Interactive Textbook Approach to Teaching: Case Study and its Use as an Exemplar of Practice.

Melanie Dumont & Norrie Edward, The School of Mechanical and Offshore Engineering, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen

Key points

An interactive textbook was used in supported tutorial teaching of undergraduate dynamics.

The implementation approach was chosen after careful analysis of the teaching and learning needs.

The logistics were planned and rehearsed.

Formative evaluation was used to develop the approach.

This case will be used as exemplar to encourage further innovation.

Introduction

There were three broad aims of the Implementation of the use of learning technology in the BEng Mechanical Engineering first year:
a) to try to find an approach to the teaching of Dynamics which would facilitate learning;
b) to evaluate the implementation and to assess its effectiveness both in terms of the whole class and with individuals;
c) to use the experience as an exemplar to encourage other staff to try similar innovative approaches.

A member of academic staff, Norrie Edward, in the School who has experience of the use of various technologies acted as the local support person. A new member of staff, Melanie Dumont, with no previous experience of teaching the subject agreed to carrying out the plan. The supporter located potentially useful materials which included videos, commercial multimedia and TLTP generated CAL software and the Schaumís Statics and Dynamics Interactive Textbook. Melanie spent considerable time assessing the materials. Her approach is commended to others in that she started with the teaching and learning situation and sought an approach which was compatible with her teaching style and with her assessment of the needs of the students. Despite the fact that we had access to source on the TLTP software and could have customised it if necessary Melanie opted for the Schaumís Interactive Textbook. This allowed her to run the class as a supported tutorial with pre-prepared worksheets for the students after giving an introductory lecture.

Implementation

We obtained an evaluation copy of the textbook from McGraw-Hill and loaded this on the network. Some problems were experienced at this stage but these were resolved by liaison between our Computer Services and the agents. A trial run with all 30 computers logged in went without hitch. The size of the class meant that it had to be split into two groups, and this did cause some logistical difficulties. Other than that the sessions went well, so much so that at one point Melanie commented that she felt redundant.

The evaluation was planned to include an assessment to gauge effectiveness, two questionnaires one prior and one post the operation, sample interviews and a learning styles inventory. There were some problems in administering these and the data are incomplete. Analysis is in progress and it is hoped that they will be sufficient to evaluate the project.

We are still discussing the best means of disseminating reports of the experience so that others may learn form our experience. A couple of short bulletins were issued while the project was underway. We are looking for a suitable venue to present our analysis to colleagues.

Initial reactions and anecdotal evidence suggests that the implementation was a success. Two factors are identified as being key to this success. Firstly Melanie analysed the teaching solution and sought an appropriate response rather than, as may happen, looking for a place she could use an available package. Secondly, with the help of LTDI, the introduction was carefully planned and rehearsed.

 


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