LEARNING PROCESSESS: A DISCUSSION FORUM TO IMPROVE LEARNING OUTCOMES IN HEALTH EDUCATION
Collaborative learning allows the use of pedagogical strategies that employ Information and Communication Technologies in order to create interactive environments in which the student is responsible for his/her own learning (self-learning). The key to the effectiveness of these strategies comes from statement that knowledge is obtained through the student’s active participation in group activities so that the knowledge is obtained more collectively rather than individually. This brings us closer to a learning system in which the student acquires and transforms his/her knowledge through interaction with the educational environment and then restructures and expands that knowledge through new learning experiences.
We present the improvement activity data obtained from the collaborative learning experience developed for the “Health Information and Basic Semiology” and the “Pharmacology I: Nutrition and Dietetics” courses (6,1 and 4,1 ECTS, respectively), which are part of the Nursing program curriculum at the University of Cadiz-Spain (UCA). Teaching methodology had a “blended learning” format, with two types of tasks: (a) in-class activities; and (b) “anytime-anywhere learning experiences” using the UCA’s virtual campus.
The learning experience includes the use of self-learning and self-evaluation on-line exercises, using the Hot Potatoes 6.2 software, in which unlimited number of opportunities, to successfully complete the exercises are given to students. These exercises include crossword puzzles, fill-in-the-blank questions and matches question exercises, which are created with the same class materials used by the student. It can be printed out and used during the face-to-face class sessions. Other activities include: a) work group activities; b) analysis and discussion, and case studies; and c) on-line discussion forums.
The class materials are available on our teaching webs and can be downloaded as soon as they are formally enrolled in. In the first in-class session, work groups of 4 to 6 students each are created along with Study Teams (long-term groups). Likewise, the course syllabus, teaching methodology and the schedule of the course are explained to them during this first session. These aspects of the course can be reviewed in the virtual room as well.
At the end of the semester, the professor releases a provisional grade to each student based on the attendance and face-to-face class participation records, realization of individual and group assignments, participation in discussion forums, the percentage of correct answers in self-learning activities, and the results of a comprehensive face-to-face final class exam.
Students can improve their grades by participating in assignments that includes the presentation of a case study for analysis and debate in a discussion, the completion of a limited number of self-learning exercises, and the submission of a short paper related to the case study. In order to participate, the student must present him/herself in the forum and describe the work he/she has done during the course.
The elevated participation in this activity (37% of the students enrolled in the “Health Information and Basic Semiology” course in the current academic year), along with the high level of satisfaction with the teaching methodology, provide the motivation to continue developing this sort of educational innovation strategies despite it involves an over workload.