About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 4675-4682
ISBN: 978-84-612-7578-6
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 3rd International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 9-11 March, 2009
Location: Valencia, Spain
Statistical knowledge has become a requisite for a wide range of fields of study, which is reflected in the number of students taking introductory statistics courses at university level. In particular, students in the Biological and Food Sciences entering University do not possess a strong background in mathematics. However, these students require modules in biostatistics to conduct research. These students are not concerned with learning theory, but with learning how to use statistics in practice.

In this paper we introduce DMIL (Direct Manipulation Interface for Learning) a blended learning environment, which creates an active environment where students are encouraged to “think statistically”. This is achieved through the use of a direct manipulation interface to support student-instructor and student-student interaction. In the DMIL learning environment, a small group of students, lead by a tutor, explore various concepts in statistics through manipulating objects, based on real data relevant to their field of study.

The module “ST2001 Introduction to Biostatistics”, which is offered to cycle 2 students in Biosciences, is used as the testbed for the project (student intake is approximately 320). ST2001 consists of lectures, small group tutorials and laboratory work. Assessment consists of terminal examination, assignments, two formal multiple choice questionnaire (MCQ) examinations, and tutorial work sheets.

Students’ intuitive ideas, formed through their experience, may be reasonable in many of context, but can be in conflict with many concepts in statistics. Moreover, these misconceptions exist despite a student’s ability to use appropriate terminology or to answer questions correctly on a typical test.

However, a pure discovery-based environment is not appropriate for introductory statistics as many students have incorrect intuitions and consequently DMIL was designed to use guided-discovery, where the application, in conjunction with the instructor, controls and coordinates the learning experience. Hence, the need for blended learning. Guided exploration is used to stimulate discussion and to steer the group towards the correct approach. The environment offered by a standard PC in a computer laboratory setting, is not ideal for creating an environment where students learn through group discussion, and visually through manipulation of objects. A smaller, portable device (an Ultra-Mobile PC), where students can gather around from all sides, and allows the students to interact with the computer by directly touching pictures or words on the screen.

We have introduced DMIL into a number of tutorial groups in the ST2001 Module and compared the performance of these groups in the MCQ examinations, with the other tutorial groups. In addition, the small group tutorial instructors keep a journal of their observations for qualatitive feedback on the reaction to, and interaction with, DMIL. As the instructors are assigned to several small group tutorial groups, the effect of the instructor on student performance can be taken into account. A student questionnaire is also be used for qualitative feedback from the students perspective.

enhancing learning and the undergraduate experience, technology in education, tutoring and.