A project-based learning approach to protein biochemistry suitable for both face-to-face and distance education students

R.J. Prior, J.K. Forwood

Abstract


Flexible learning approaches are being increasingly adopted within Universities to improve the learning outcomes for students. Online, distance and project-based learning are examples of teaching and learning methods that have gained popularity due to their ability to deliver course outcomes in a flexible manner. At Charles Sturt University, students undertaking the degree of Bachelor of Biotechnology can study all subjects in either the face-to-face or distance education modes. Prior to 2006, one core second year subject within the course, Protein Biochemistry, was delivered in a more ‘traditional’ style to both cohorts of students. Face-to-face students were given didactic lectures on protein structure, function and analysis techniques, while distance education students were provided with a study guide, lecture notes, and a prescribed text. Laboratory practicals were also a component of the subject, completed by distance education students at an on-campus residential school. Both cohorts of students had access to an online subject page where they could discuss subject material on a forum and access learning resources such as tutorial worksheets. Students evaluated in 2003-2005 felt that the subject was difficult, were not able to see connections between different subject topics and frequently performed poorly in the subject examinations. As the assessment was predominantly exam based, students were particularly focused on ‘what will be in the exam’ rather than the subject material. In response to both staff and student feedback, alternative learning and teaching approaches were considered. In 2006, the projectbased learning (PrBL) pedagogy was implemented into both face-to-face and distance education modes, fully replacing traditional lectures, study guides and examinations with a project-based curriculum. Here, we present a paper that describes the PrBL approach used simultaneously in both face-to-face and distance education modes to teach Protein Biochemistry. A preliminary evaluation of the implementation of this approach is also included.

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