Development of a support environment for first year students taking materials science/engineering

Laoui, Tahar and O'Donoghue, John (2008) Development of a support environment for first year students taking materials science/engineering. Research in Science & Technological Education, 26 (1). pp. 93-110. ISSN 0263-5143

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This paper is based on the experience acquired in teaching materials science/engineering to first year university students. It has been observed that students struggle with some of the fundamental materials concepts addressed in the module/course. This applies to delivered lectures but extends to the incorporation of tutorial sessions provided after lectures. Moreover, when students miss a lecture or seminar the acquisition and application of knowledge and concepts becomes problematic. Consequently, or perhaps inevitably, these students perform poorly in their assessments and their motivation for the subject suffers. A careful analysis of this situation and of the nature of interaction and engagement was performed to gain an insight into the reasons for this lack of performance. A common factor is that students do not dedicate sufficient time for reading and consolidation using the chapters/sections prescribed after each topic. They also do not attempt solving tutorial problems outside the formal contact hours. This reflection and personal evaluation is difficult to administer, resource intensive and yet potentially enables each student to monitor and evaluate their own learning and understanding. A multimedia learning technology-based environment was created in which students could engage. This was located within the University of Wolverhampton Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) called WOLF. The students were able to progress independently but with access to tutor and peer support, help and advice. The use of non-text animations and structures was used and seen as fundamental by the students in enhancing the taught course and in developing a deeper understanding of complex atomic and crystal structures.

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