DEVELOPMENT OF AUTONOMOUS LEARNING TOOLS TO ENHANCE STUDENTS LEARNING IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
In recent years computer science courses have become more and more common in science and engineering degrees. Engineers and scientists need to have a good understanding of the software they use. However, lecturers face a complex task when teaching this subject: students consider the subject to be unrelated to their core interests and often feel uncomfortable when facing computational concepts for the first time.
A non-traditional approach might help students to overcome their difficulties. Several studies have proposed the use of autonomous learning methodologies to improve student involvement. Students in control of their learning processes tend to attain higher learning levels, higher confidence and greater satisfaction.
This paper presents an autonomous learning science education research project conducted at the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Granada. The aim of this project was to develop new computer tools that will support the autonomous learning of computer science topics by Chemistry Engineering and Biology students.
One of the tools developed within the project has been a set of interactive animations that will enhance the student’s learning process. Students have access to a series of screencasts that explain the subject main topics. We have also developed a computer system capable of generating different exercises for each student in an automatic way. A database of questions related to computer science has been developed together with several tools to create automatic quizzes. All the materials developed have been placed on an online server that the students can access wherever and whenever they want.
Students from the Chemical Engineering and Biology degrees at the University of Granada have used these modules during their computer science courses. We have evaluated the project comparing their results with those obtained when these modules were not available. We have found that there is a significant group of students that have improved their learning thanks to the additional material. Students have also expressed their satisfaction when using the autonomous learning tools.
These new tools represent a significant improvement in the learning process for over five hundred students of Chemistry and Life Sciences. It is our belief that these modules can be easily applied to other computer science courses in engineering and science degrees.