Evaluating the Geography E-Learning Materials and Activities: Student and Staff Perspectives

Evaluating the Geography E-Learning Materials and Activities: Student and Staff Perspectives

Karen Fill (KataliSys Ltd, UK) and Louise Mackay (University of Leeds, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-980-9.ch013
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This chapter is concerned with the evaluation of learning materials and activities developed as part of the DialogPLUS project. A range of evaluation activities was undertaken, focusing on the experiences of students, teaching staff, and the entire project team. Student evaluations included both quantitative and qualitative approaches, particularly using a questionnaire design drawing on a specific methodology and generic quality criteria, facilitating comparative analysis of results. Discussion of the student evaluations is focused on specific taught modules from both human and physical geography. Results of these evaluations were discussed with teaching staff and contributed to improvements in the various online resources. Both internal and external evaluators were involved in interviewing key project staff and their different perspectives are presented. The chapter concludes by reflecting on the effectiveness and impact of different DialogPLUS activities, highlighting the principal impacts of the project as perceived by the students and staff involved.
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The education team at Southampton developed an overall evaluation strategy for DialogPLUS based on the principles of utilization-focused evaluation (Patton, 1986).

... in the real world of trade-offs and negotiations, too often what can be measured determines what is evaluated, rather than deciding first what is worth evaluating and then doing the best one can with methods. Relevance and utility are the driving force in utilization-focused evaluation; methods are employed in the service of relevance and use, not as their master. (Patton, 1986, p. 221)

The approach involves identifying key stakeholders and working with them to understand how they intend to use the outcomes of evaluation and which major questions are useful to answer. This information then informs the design of evaluation approaches and instruments. The full range of the DialogPLUS stakeholders was identified early in the project (see Table 1).

Table 1.
DialogPLUS stakeholder groups, their interests and concerns
StakeholdersInterests and concerns
Geographers at partner institutionsRelevance and value of the project to their local context.
Access to digital library resources.
Barriers and enablers to nugget development, usage and sharing.
Effectiveness of nuggets in their local learning & teaching context.
Collaborative nature of the project and how it has worked.
Usability and effectiveness of the toolkit.
Embedding of outputs / outcomes.
Changes to professional practice resulting from involvement in the project.
Learners at partner institutionsThe kind of skill or conceptual understanding needed to use the nuggets.
Accessibility of resources / nuggets.
Effectiveness of resources / nuggets.
Impact on their learning processes and outcomes.
Computer scientists and educational technologists at partner institutionsBarriers and enablers to development of the toolkit.
Usability and effectiveness of the toolkit.
Barriers and enablers to developing systems for nugget sharing.
Usability and effectiveness of solutions for nugget sharing.
Convergence with emerging standards in learning design, interoperability, resource discovery and reuse.
Educationists and the evaluation teamInnovation in teaching and learning.
Pedagogical soundness of the toolkit.
Barriers and enablers to changing practice.
Effectiveness of the evaluation methodology adopted.
Evaluation findings and their relevance.
Project teamEnsuring that the project is successfully completed on time and to budget and meets the original aims and objectives of the proposal.
Facilitating communication between partners.
Monitoring of project activities against project plan.
Collaborative nature of the project and how it has worked.
Institutional managersSuccessful project completion.
Usability and effectiveness of project outcomes.
Funding bodiesValue of the collaboration.
Synergies between related JISC/NSF projects and programmes.
Applicability and transferability of the outcomes to the wider community.
The Higher Education communityProject contribution in the areas of digital resources / repositories, distributed learning design, development and implementation, international collaboration, teaching and learning in Geography at tertiary level.

Complete Chapter List

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List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Lou McGill
Chapter 1
Philip Rees, Louise Mackay, David Martin, Gráinne Conole, Hugh Davis
Technologies offer a range of tantalizing potentials for education—in terms of providing access to media- rich context and for students to visualize... Sample PDF
Developing E-Learning in Geography
Chapter 2
Samuel Leung, David Martin, Richard Treves, Oliver Duke-Williams
In contrast to other Web-based resources, e-learning materials are not always exchangeable and shareable. Although transferring electronic documents... Sample PDF
Exchanging E-Learning Materials, Modules, and Students
Chapter 3
Helen Durham, Katherine Arrell, David DiBiase
Collaborative learning activity design (CLAD) is a multi-institution approach to the creation of e-learning material from the design phase through... Sample PDF
Collaborative Learning Activity Design: Learning about the Global Positioning System
Chapter 4
David Martin, Philip Rees, Helen Durham, Stephen A. Matthews
This chapter presents the development of a series of shared learning materials prepared to facilitate teaching in human geography. The principal... Sample PDF
Census and Population Analysis
Chapter 5
Stephen Darby, Sally J. Priest, Karen Fill, Samuel Leung
In this chapter we outline the issues involved in developing, delivering, and evaluating a Level 2 undergraduate module in fluvial geomorphology.... Sample PDF
Using Digital Libraries to Support Undergraduate Learning in Geomorphology
Chapter 6
Jim Wright, Michael J. Clark, Sally J. Priest, Rizwan Nawaz
There is an inherent antithesis between environmental management as professional practice and as concept or philosophy. Not only does this... Sample PDF
Engaging with Environmental Management: The Use of E-Learning for Motivation and Skills Enhancement
Chapter 7
Louise Mackay, Samuel Leung, E. J. Milton
In our experience of earth observation (EO) online learning we highlight the usefulness of the World Wide Web in terms of its software... Sample PDF
Earth Observation: Conveying the Principles to Physical Geography Students
Chapter 8
Helen Durham, Samuel Leung, David DiBiase
Academic integrity (AI) is of relevance across all academic disciplines, both from the perspective of the educator and the student. From the former... Sample PDF
Generic Learning Materials: Developing Academic Integrity in Your Students
Chapter 9
Karen Fill, Gráinne Conole, Chris Bailey
The DialogPLUS Toolkit is a web-based application that guides the design of learning activities. Developed to support the project’s geographers, it... Sample PDF
A Toolkit to Guide the Design of Effective Learning Activities
Chapter 10
David DiBiase, Mark Gahegan
This chapter investigates the problem of connecting advanced domain knowledge (from geography educators in this instance) with the strong pedagogic... Sample PDF
Concept Mapping to Design, Organize, and Explore Digital Learning Objects
Chapter 11
Terence R. Smith, Marcia Lei Zeng
We describe a digital learning environment (DLE) organized around sets of concepts that represent a specific domain of knowledge. A prototype DLE... Sample PDF
Semantic Tools to Support the Construction and Use of Concept-Based Learning Spaces
Chapter 12
Richard Treves
Teaching geography at university level involves students in study of complex diagrams and maps. These can be made easier to understand if split into... Sample PDF
Simple Geography-Related Multimedia
Chapter 13
Karen Fill, Louise Mackay
This chapter is concerned with the evaluation of learning materials and activities developed as part of the DialogPLUS project. A range of... Sample PDF
Evaluating the Geography E-Learning Materials and Activities: Student and Staff Perspectives
Chapter 14
Louise Mackay, David Martin, Philip Rees, Helen Durham
In this book we have illustrated the materials, software, and experience of developing and delivering geography e-learning courses and learning... Sample PDF
Reflections, Lessons Learnt, and Conclusions
Chapter 15
Sally Priest
This chapter discusses the design, technical development, delivery, and evaluation of two online learning activities in environmental geography. A... Sample PDF
Online Learning Activities in Second Year Environmental Geography
Chapter 16
Dion Hoe-Lian Goh
With the rapid growth of digital information, there is increasing recognition that digital libraries (DL) will play important roles in education... Sample PDF
Learning Geography with the G-Portal Digital Library
Chapter 17
Shivanand Balram
This chapter describes the origins, boundaries, and structures of collaborative geographic information systems (CGIS). A working definition is... Sample PDF
Collaborative Geographic Information Systems: Origins, Boundaries, and Structures
Glossary of Terms
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