A pilot study on the impact of an online writing tool used by first year science students

Osu Lilje, Virginia Breen, Alison Lewis, Aida Yalcin

Abstract


A recently developed Online Report Writing Evaluation Tool (ORWET) is a summative assessment tool that was introduced in 2008 into the first year Human Biology (HB) course in the School of Biological Sciences, The University of Sydney. ORWET aims to improve students’ understanding of scientific report writing. The tool presents sample scientific reports to students for marking, using the same criterion-based marking scheme provided to staff members when marking reports. The interactive environment of ORWET allows students to test their understanding of what makes a good scientific report. It also ensures students are made aware of the marking criteria and how reports are marked before producing their own scientific report. The reflective process is encouraged by the timely feedback provided by ORWET in response to students’ multiple marking attempts. ORWET has been integrated into the course structure as a summative assessment activity in an attempt to maximise students’ perception of usefulness of the online component (Lilje, Krishnan and Peat 2007). The eLearning tool complements the traditional experimental and reporting assessment activity thereby reinforcing the blended learning environment of the Human Biology course (Lilje and Peat 2006). This paper discusses students’ responses to ORWET and how it has impacted on the overall standard of scientific writing submitted by the student cohort.

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