Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN11 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 2872-2881
ISBN: 978-84-615-0441-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain
In the fall semester of the academic year 2010-2011, we organised an introductory course and an advanced course on Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIS&T). For the practical part of the introductory course, students were divided into two groups. A first group of 43 students (98% bachelor and 2% predoctoral) was offered a series of 6 collective sessions of 2 hours in a computer class under guidance of a teaching assistant in which they made use of the commercial and closed source software (CCSS) IDRISI. A second group (22 students, 71% bachelor and 29% master), used the Free and Open Source Softwares (FOSS) Quantum GIS (QGIS) and GRASS in a supervised self-study (SSS) approach. In this context, SSS means that students work independently (at home) to acquire skills and to solve a set of exercises and report about four assignments. Herewith, all the necessary instructions and datasets were available online through an e-learning platform. Feedback and personal advice were provided by the instructors in four non-compulsory sessions, by e-mail and/or by managing a discussion board. The SSS-approach was also adopted in the practical part of the advanced course of GIS&T (22 students, 96% master and 4% predoctoral). In this course, the FOSS PostgreSQL/PostGIS in combination with QGIS was used.

A web-based questionnaire survey addressing all students in both courses was conducted from December 2010 to January 2011. The main purpose of the survey was to gain insight in the students’ attitude towards the teaching methods (Collective sessions with CCSS vs. SSS with FOSS). For the SSS-approach, the survey showed that students of the Advanced Course (AC) are more satisfied than the students of the Introductory Course (IC) (96% vs. 67%, p<0.05). Both SSS-groups highly appreciated the freedom to work independently (100% of the AC and 91% of the IC) and found the SSS-approach stimulating for the learning processes (88% of the AC and 82% of the IC). No influence of previous SSS-experience was found. With regard to the two different teaching methods in the introductory course, the students of the collective session were more satisfied with the teaching method than the students of the SSS-approach (88% vs. 68%). However, the SSS-students appreciated more the freedom to work independently (91% vs. 79%) and confirmed that the teaching method was stimulating to deal actively with the course materials and learning processes (82% vs. 73%). All the students of the advanced course have the intention or at least see possibilities to re-use PostgreSQL/PostGIS while 96% of the SSS-students of the introductory course see possibilities to re-use QGIS. Also the large majority (91%) of the students who followed the collective sessions see possibilities to re-use IDRISI. We conclude from these surveys that advanced students appreciate more the SSS-approach in comparison with undergraduate students. For undergraduates, the two teaching methods are both appreciated and both have attractive and less attractive features. However, the SSS-approach seems to stimulate active use of the course materials and hence to prepare for lifelong learning. The surveys indicate that students certainly do not dislike learning and working with FOSS which can be a stimulus to use FOSS in other software-based courses.
Supervised self-study, free and open source software for geomatics, e-learning, new teaching approach, students' appreciation, lifelong learning.