Using contemporary topics and Internet resources to stimulate student-centred learning
AbstractIn this paper we describe how we fostered learning by modifying an existing course which covered topics relevant to biosciences. This course was offered predominantly to first year undergraduate science, biomedical science and environment students. The students were trained to find reliable scientific information via computer searches, and shown ways to use and cite references. Small teams of students used Internet resources to find, evaluate and summarise information for 15 minute presentations. An initial lack of confidence in presentation ability improved significantly over this period. The students identified the computer workshop format, the presentations and the interesting lectures as outstanding course features. The structure facilitated student-centred learning by providing interdisciplinary research topics that were considered interesting, relevant and authentic. The learning environment supported the diversity of abilities and interests of the students. Other positive student outcomes were the formation of friendships, a broadened interest in science, discovery of possible career paths, and greater confidence in their ability to find good references. The provision of computers with Internet access in the students' workshops changed the previously tutor-led approach to a student-centred format, ideal for ensuring active learning. The choice of interesting, multidisciplinary topics and lecturers also helped mitigate the possible negative effect of a student cohort drawn from diverse disciplines.
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