You can lead a student to water, but can you make them think? An evaluation of a situated learning environment: An Ocean in the Classroom

Roisin O'Reilly


A marine science virtual environment was developed as a CD-ROM to simulate marine sampling procedures for abundant and rare species. Students participated as scientists in the process by conducting fish counts for species of differing abundances and sampling unit sizes, calculating the most cost effective sample unit size for common and rare species, and then presenting their findings and interpretations in scientific report format. This paper reports an evaluation of the CD-ROM as it was incorporated into an assessable activity in a third year undergraduate and postgraduate Marine Biology subject. The evaluation evidence indicated that: (a) most students were able to navigate and use the CD-ROM effectively; (b) most students experienced an improvement in their understanding of the sampling process, particularly with rare species; (c) staff confirmed that there was an improvement in students’ understanding of the sampling process, including how to choose and undertake the most cost effective sampling method; but (d) this understanding did not always improve students’ ability to interpret their results critically and to relate them to what they had observed in the field. These findings are discussed in terms of what is required to provide students with an authentic learning experience as marine scientists, and how the CD-ROM could be incorporated into such a learning experience in the future.

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