EVOLUTION OF VIRTUAL INTERACTIONS AMONG TEACHERS AND STUDENTS IN A MIXED LEARNING AGRICULTURAL SCIENCE MASTER
The Official Masters Degree in Agro-ecology, Rural Development and Agro-tourism of the Universidad Miguel Hernández was started in 2007 using a mixed learning environment: 75% on-line, using Moodle, and 25% face-to-face (mainly laboratory and on field sessions). It is a one year program comprising 60 ECTS, distributed in two semesters. For most faculties and students involved, it was the first on-line learning experience and has experienced a fast evolution during the first editions.
The present work analyses the evolution of some indicators related to the on-line interactions between teachers and students through the Moodle platform. The information was collected from first semester courses during 3 consecutive years (2008-2009, 2009-2010 and 2010-2011). The study was centered in the following activities: quiz tests, student assignments and chat interactions. To evaluate faculties’ strategies, in each course, the total numbers of posted (i) quiz, (ii) assignments and (iii) opened chats have been counted. To evaluate student interactions through the platform, the total number of (i) attempts to answer the quiz, (ii) delivered assignments, and (iii) chat entries have been counted (include faculties entries) . Afterwards, ratio total vs number of students has been calculated.
Over the years, student assignments are the most used activities by faculties, followed by chats and quiz following a relation 2:1:0.5. Regarding student interactions the first position is for assignments delivery, followed by quiz attempts and chats, following a relation 2:1:0.75. All the courses include student assignments and chats, whereas only 60% of the courses include quiz test. As a general rule, student assignments are mainly used as evaluation activities, chats are mainly used for specific topics regarding the contents of the course or specific assignments, and quiz test are sometimes for student auto-evaluation, others for truly evaluation purposes.
For all courses, the number of quiz, assignments and chats has been increased during 3 years, although this increase has been only progressive and linear in 80% of the courses. Again, student assignments have been the type of activity that has increased most, followed by chats and finally quiz test that remained almost unchanged.
Regarding the number of interactions per student, there is a clear trend to increase over the years, from 50 interactions in the first semester in course 2008-2009 to 77 in course 2010-2011. The most increased type of interaction was the number of entries/opened-chat, whereas quiz-attempts/opened-quiz and assignments-delivery/assignment remained unchanged. So, the increase in student interactions cannot be directly related to the higher number of activities introduced by the faculties, but probably to the enhanced skills of faculties in working in Moodle platform, communicating in e-learning environments and motivating students. Another important factor may be that students, as well as society, are getting more used to virtual communication and interactions.
The use of an on-line environment has been successfully introduced in the learning practices of a Masters Degree in Agricultural Science.