DEVELOPMENT OF TUTORIALS TO PROMOTE SELF-DIRECTED PROGRAMMING LEARNING: APPLICATION TO POSTGRADUATE STUDIES

T. Plomaritis, M. Puig, I. Laiz, J.J. Muñoz-Perez

Universidad de Cadiz (SPAIN)
Most students graduated in Marine Science or other related disciplines (e.g. Geology, Biology, Chemistry) lack the basic background knowledge in scientific programming and modelling (e.g. Matlab, Fortran, Python), necessary in numerical disciplines such as Physical or Coastal Oceanography. Hence, when they enroll for postgraduate studies in Oceanography they are not able to properly follow the lessons related to the above disciplines and generally become discouraged. Trying to meet the needs of those students during the lessons would result in not accomplishing the course’s program, given the fact that MSc programs have concentrated material and are extremely demanding for the students. For this reason, a collaborative effort has been made among various lecturers to develop tutorials in order to promote self-directed learning among the MSc students with the aim of alleviating those deficiencies.

These tutorials were applied in two different courses and consisted in:
i) a quick-start Matlab guide for NetCDF meteorological and oceanographic data handling and plotting, and
ii) the use of a front-end platform for visualising, analysing and evaluating results from the state-of-the-art morphodynamic model XBEACH-G.

The above methods helped the students to understand the potential of programming and numerical modelling, as well as, the importance of applying such approaches both in consulting and research-based carriers. Overall, this methodology resulted in a higher level of satisfaction among students because it offered an active, flexible and self-reliant learning method that was adapted to each person’s learning pace and difficulties. Finally, the tutorials proved to be an inclusive teaching strategy able to address the needs of students with different backgrounds, learning styles, and abilities, hence providing a more efficient learning environment, in which all students could reach their potential at their own pace and feel equally valued at the end of the course.