Online Learning Activities in Second Year Environmental Geography

Online Learning Activities in Second Year Environmental Geography

Sally Priest (University of Southampton, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-980-9.ch015
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Abstract

This chapter discusses the design, technical development, delivery, and evaluation of two online learning activities in environmental geography. A “blended” approach was adopted in order to best integrate the new materials within the existing unit. The primary aim of these online activities was to provide students with opportunities to develop and demonstrate valuable practical skills, while increasing their understanding of environmental management. A purpose-built system was created in order to overcome initial technological challenges. The online activities have already been delivered successfully to a large number of students over two academic years. Evaluation and staff reflection highlight the benefits and limitations of the new activities, and the chapter concludes with recommendations for others wishing to adopt a similar approach.
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Background

Overview of the Unit as Traditionally Taught

Physical Geography in Environmental Management is primarily lecture based; however, the unit is pioneering in many respects. Since its inception, it has been a test-bed for new pedagogic approaches within the School of Geography. The unit is taken by postgraduates and undergraduates, as well as geography specialists and non-geographers. This varied mix of students makes it ideally suited for evolving new and innovative approaches. Indeed, the unit was an early adopter of the MicroCosm® open hypermedia system (Clark, Ball, & Sadler, 1995); the first in the School to use PowerPoint and subsequently Web-based resources; and the School’s own virtual learning environment (VLE) was initially developed to house its resources.

The associated practical elements have developed from paper-based, via early computer techniques to support learning, to the first stages of Web-enabled education. Early attempts at e-learning focussed primarily on the delivery of resources across the Web and the use of simple computer models, rather than engaging students with any meaningful interaction, other than choice of options and parameters for modeling. The opportunity, within the DialogPLUS project, to address this perceived need for engagement, coupled with increasing numbers of students, provided the impetus for further change.

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