J.A. Rufián-Henares, S. Pastoriza, J.J. Muros

University of Granada (SPAIN)
Introduction: Due to the process of integration in the European Space of Higher Education, the methodologies used in the Spanish universities are changing. The university professors are using different approaches that try to increase the students’ attention and performance. In addition, the use of new technologies is steadily expanding. Then, novel approaches including computer usage could be important in the teaching practice.

Objectives: The objective of this experience was to unravel if the physical interaction student-computer in a more natural manner, like the use of a stylus, could motivate the students and improve their final score in the exams of a practical discipline.

Material and methods: Seventy two students from the subject “Nutrition and Food Science” coursed in the Degree in Pharmacy (University of Granada, Spain) were enrolled in the study. The students were divided in three groups of 24 (the maximum capacity of the laboratory). The control group (CG) performed the laboratory practices with the usual method (explanation of theory and calculations in a blackboard). The Personal Computer group (PCG) received the explanations through Power Point presentations for the theoretical part and the Excel utility for the calculations part. The Tablet Group (TG) received the explanations in the same manner like the CG but replacing the personal computer by a tablet PC. In both, the CG and the TG the students interacted with the computers in order to perform the calculations, as the CG did with the blackboard. The evaluation of the benefits of the experience was carried out, on one hand, through a questionnaire that the students had to fill individually. The questionnaire consisted of 5 questions, being each one assessed from 1 (lowest mark) to 5 (highest mark). On the other hand, the final score obtained in the exam was used to quantify the final impact of the different approaches in the students’ knowledge.

Results: The mean final score of the CG was 7.2 ± 1.0, which was not different than that obtained by the PCG (7.3 ± 1.2). On the contrary, the TG obtained a statistically significant (p < 0.05) higher score (8.9 ± 0.7). Regarding to the questionnaire, the experience was globally assessed with 4.78 by the PC group, where the other groups showed a lower mark (4,16). The most assessed statement was "The computing resources that have been used were necessary and stimulating” with a 4.78 by the TG and 4,32 by the PC group. In deed, the statement "Simulation with computers allows me to see mistakes that I couldn’t see before” was more valued in the TG (4.53) than in the PC group (4.13). This results means that the use of a standard computer didn’t increase the knowledge creation in the students, but the interaction though a different manner, like a tablet PC, increase the attention of students, giving rise to a better performance in the exams.

Conclusion: There was an improvement in the final score of the students when the theory and calculations were applied in a more practical manner, like the use of a tablet PC. This reflects that students’ knowledge is better constructed though a practical intervention rather than a more static and traditional approach.