|Design, Development, and Implementation of Online Learning Materials for Core Second-Year Forestry Courses
This project supported the development of online learning systems (OLS) with a common look and feel for four core, second-year courses in the Faculty of Forestry (FRST 200, 201, 210, and 211). These four courses are required for all students in several forestry programs and comprise a large amount of the teaching to second year undergraduates. Thus, this project is anticipated to have an enduring impact on the online offerings for the Faculty of Forestry. A Teaching and Learning Fellow was hired to help design and implement the OLS, as well as design and implement studies on the OLS involving undergraduates, teaching assistants, and course instructors. The expanded online learning systems benefited students by permitting interaction with materials outside the classroom or the lab, and allowing for more self-directed learning. This project also provided an opportunity to establish an online “identity” for Forestry OLS.
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Suzie Lavallee, Senior Instructor, Forest and Conservation Sciences, Faculty of Forestry
Products & achievements: Online Connect platforms developed for four core UBC Forestry courses; two Faculty-wide pedagogy workshops on OLS and flipped classroom design.
Evaluation approach: Data for this study was collected using a combination of data sources and methods. Focus groups, questionnaires, online surveys, and informal feedback sessions (i.e., casual discussions) were held with undergraduate students taking these courses. Questionnaires were provided to students at different stages in the study to assess their attitudes, uses, and importance of the OLS. Student interviews examined negative and positive attitudes towards the new OLS, as well as their perceptions of the value of the OLS in their courses.
Data on student use of the materials was also collected through Connect analytics (e.g., amount of time spent using online materials, participation in quizzes and discussion boards). Feedback sessions with faculty and teaching assistants were also carried out.
Findings: Although analysis of the data collected through student online surveys/questionnaires, analytics and focus groups is still pending, positive feedback on the use of OLS for the four courses involved has been provided by students, instructors and teaching assistants. Anecdotal evidence suggests that where more interactive experiences (e.g., quizzes) were offered, students were more engaged with materials and spent more time reviewing materials online. Teaching assistants and instructors found that for bookkeeping (e.g., grades entry), there was much less time required to collate and check grades when they were managed through the OLS. Use of the OLS also allowed for greater freedom with where teaching assistants and instructors could work (e.g. at home versus on UBC computer) and where students could access course materials and their grades. The sentiment from most students regarding the OLS is an expectation that future courses they take will provide information or materials online, thus indicating an overall positive experience with the OLS.
Once the analysis of all data sources is completed, student and faculty information will be cross-referenced for common experiences or reflections among the different ‘actors’ in the study, as well as drawing out where persistent negative and positive experiences are reported.
Dissemination: Two workshops were held as a part of the faculty training component of this project: one on the use of OLS and the evaluation techniques (quizzes) that are available through Connect, and one on flipped classroom design and the current outcomes of the study. The plan to write publications based on the data collected in this project is ongoing.
Sustainability: The increased engagement in the OLS process and use demonstrated by instructors has already spanned to the 2015 / 2016 semesters. Instructors in the second year courses involved in this study have continued to use the Connect OLS for their courses this year, and have received basic training on the use of these systems. These changes are anticipated to continue their influence on the teaching and learning in the second year program at UBC Forestry – helping to train students for more advanced uses of OLS in their course work, as well as help instructors enhance their offering of online materials to undergraduate students. Other instructors in the faculty have seen the OLS set up provided to the second year courses and have been offered the use of the template that was employed. It is anticipated that these changes will continue to have influence on teaching and learning in the faculty, as instructors and students gradually become used to OLS and their applications.
The culture of OLS in the Faculty has begun to shift, with more instructors employing OLS for their courses, even at a rudimentary level. Expanded use of the template that was developed for the Connect system is anticipated in courses for which there are no current frameworks, although it will require them to receive significant redevelopment to meet specific course needs.