Using an E-Learning Environment for Developing Science Students’ Written Communication: The Case of Writing Laboratory Reports in Physiology

Helen Drury, Meloni Muir

Abstract


The laboratory report is a core assessment task in undergraduate science curricula that challenges students to concisely report laboratory activities using appropriate, discipline-specific genre conventions as well as integrating readings into their writing. In a crowded curriculum with a diverse student population, an online approach was developed to address supporting students in their writing in the discipline of physiology. A collaborative team comprising discipline staff, language and learning specialists and IT pedagogical designers came together to design, develop and implement the online report writing resource known as FLERT (Flexible Electronic Report writing Tool). FLERT is comprised of two interactive components: a literacy component and a discipline-specific component. Both are structured in a format similar to that of a laboratory report. While writing, students can move between report sections in FLERT as they perceive the need. This paper reports on the collaborative design and development approach of the team, the implementation process and evaluation of FLERT. Overall, users found both components of FLERT user-friendly and easy to navigate. Students rated the site strongly in terms of their increased understanding and confidence in report writing and content understanding. Students who used FLERT had significantly higher report marks than non-users.

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