C. Mendiguchía1, E. Espada2, J.A. López1, J.J. Pinto1

1University of Cádiz, Faculty of Marine and Environmental Sciences (SPAIN)
2University of Cádiz., Faculty of Sciences (SPAIN)
The European Higher Education Area has promoted depth changes in the Spanish Educational System mainly based on the students’ learning and assesment methodologies. In this regard, continuous assesing and self-learning are presented as a key factor for a quality teaching-learning process. Nevertheless, the lack of resources to conduct this task and the high number of students in the lecture room can be presented as drawbacks to get this objective. Moreover, carrying out continuous assesment of students´ learning supposes a big challenge for professors, who must create new activities to follow students’ progress during the course. These activities must promote students participation and simultaneously facilitate continuous assesments by professors.
In the last years, the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have been presented as a very useful tool to conduct and assess these learning activities mainly based on the use of on-line platforms such as the Virtual Campus. These platforms are usually employed by professors to upload materials and documents which are considered of interest for students. However, among the most powerful tools that can be found in these platforms, the use of forums for discussion could be highlighted.
In this work, the use of forum for discussion in the subject “Instrumental Techniques for Environmental Analysis”, which is taught in the Degree of Environmental Sciences of the University of Cádiz, is presented.
In particular, students were asked through the Virtual Campus for participating in a debate about a topic related to the subject that was selected by professors. The activity was performed twice in the semester with different topics. In all cases, students’ participation in forums was obligated and the frequency and quality of entries was evaluated. As a consequence, students needed to continuously study the contents of the subject for participating in the forums as it was observed. Additionally, this activity was useful to make students writing in a scientific style, giving reasons for their arguments and opinions, and using specific vocabulary. It is worth mentioning the improvement in the students´ marks in the second forum for discussion showing the improvement in their self-learning.
In conclusion, the application of forums has been a successful alternative for self-learning of students that had to express their opinion about different aspects of instrumental analysis in a scientific context. Moreover, it was a useful tool for continuous assessment by professors, who could follow the students’ progress during the whole semester in a way that could not be afforded using classical methodologies, with all students, in the lecture room.