A Blended Learning Approach to Laboratory Preparation
AbstractStudents who are well prepared for laboratory classes are more likely to successfully acquire laboratory skills and gain the maximum possible benefit from the laboratory learning environment. To facilitate effective student preparation and improve their learning outcomes, we have designed and developed an online resource centre. These resources are used by students in conjunction with traditional resources including the laboratory manual prior to attendance in laboratories. Resources comprise a series of web based activities including visual and audio presentations, pre-laboratory questions and quizzes related to the laboratory activities that the students will complete. To determine how effective these resources were in facilitating laboratory preparation, students were surveyed both before and after the introduction of the resources. Surveys were designed to establish student perceptions regarding their preparatory practices. In addition, the effect on some measurable learning outcomes was established. This paper reports on how the implementation of this blended learning approach has improved the nature of student preparation practices. Presenting information in a flexible learning format, prior to participation, enhanced student familiarisation with theoretical and experimental procedures. Thus facilitated preparation reduced the potential risk of cognitive dissonance by improving student organisational abilities which in turn lead to better experimental learning outcomes and value-added student perception of the laboratory experience as a whole.