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Adapting Paper-based Support Material for the WWW

Alison Galloway, Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh

This implementation involved the production of web pages for the teaching of basic research methods. Some pages on sampling, questionnaire design and simple data measurement had already been produced last year, modelled on paper-based workbooks that I developed for use with Level 1 students, but the student interaction in the web pages was minimal. The main aim of this implementation was, therefore, to increase the interaction dramatically and produce web pages which catered for a variety of student learning styles.

Issues

It proved important to keep the project to a manageable scale, and to try to establish time targets by which to track progress.

Support from within the institution proved very important, providing resources for acquisition of software and for a web author, but it takes time to successfully negotiate such support.

The starting point for the design of the web resources was to identify activities through which students could learn, this approach helped avoid creating a web resource which was merely the paper-based course book delivered via computer.

After consultation with LTDI staff, it was agreed that it would be appropriate to concentrate on only one aspect of research methods, and Sampling was selected as a suitable starting point. There are three main paths through which students will be able to work through these pages. First of all, a linear approach can be taken whereby they are introduced to various aspects of the theory of sampling in turn and these are interspersed with topic related questions and activities. Secondly, they can choose to look only at the questions (which have been developed using Perception, the web-based package by the makers of Question Mark). Many of the questions incorporate fairly lengthy explanations, so that a student getting the answer to a question wrong will hopefully gain a deeper understanding of the subject afterwards. These questions are designed to provide purely formative assessment at the moment, although this can be reviewed at a later stage if appropriate. The third approach takes the student straight to some "activities" which are designed to demonstrate the main types of sampling. These include animations, presentations, links to a database of fictitious potential respondents in a sampling frame, and a number of discussion topics.

Through the support of the LTDI team as well as Centre for Learning and Teaching and IT staff at QMC, most problems have so far been surmountable. Progress has been fairly slow, but the web pages should be up and running to support students in the first semester of 1998/99. Having overcome the initial problems involved in the production of the pages, it is hoped that other aspects of research methods can be more quickly adapted to this format. It is not intended, however, that these web page replace face-to-face teaching, but instead that they support more flexible learning by students.


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