Virtual Communication for Lab-based Science Teaching: A Case Study

Mary Peat

Abstract


Since the early 1990s, we in First Year Biology at The University of Sydney, along with the rest of the 'innovators'11, have utilised computers in educational settings and this has led to an explosion of material and delivery modes. A discussion of the development and use in First Year Biology of both CAL materials and delivery modes (from stand-alone to Internet-based) can be found in Franklin and Peat4 and Franklin, Peat, Mackay-Wood and Chambers6.

Whilst First Year Biology has for 20 years provided a supervised room for students to access teaching and learning resources, it is only since the rapidly increasing use of the Web that these resources have been moved on-line, and mainly in response to a need to keep the resources room 'open' longer. Moving the resources room 'on-line' subsequently led to a new focus on communication, offering both a novel email link from students to staff and a mechanism for student-student interaction. In addition this allows the students a flexibility of use that the supervised resources room could never offer.

The web-based communications now available for over 1300 first year students, along with the virtual resources available, can all be accessed via a user-friendly 'Virtual Resources Room'. These resources are helping to enhance the student experience by providing both an asynchronous communciation mechanism for those unable to visit the staff and flexible learning opportunities that help to train students to be independent learners.

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