Examining the Use of Web-Based Reusable Learning Objects by Animal and Veterinary Nursing Students

Examining the Use of Web-Based Reusable Learning Objects by Animal and Veterinary Nursing Students

Emily Chapman-Waterhouse (Harper Adams University, Shropshire, UK), Ayona Silva-Fletcher (Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, UK) and Kim David Whittlestone (Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/IJWLTT.2016070103
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This intervention study examined the interaction of animal- and veterinary nursing students with reusable learning objects (RLO) in the context of preparing for summative assessment. Data was collected from 199 undergraduates using quantitative and qualitative methods. Students accessed RLO via personal devices in order to reinforce taught sessions. Interviewees reported that the RLO helped them meet the requirements of the curriculum. Quantitative data supported two valid points; the lack of engagement of students when given a free-choice and reluctance for self-assessment. The practical significance of the qualitative outcomes lies with how first year undergraduates on animal and veterinary nursing-related courses use RLO designed to address equine management and health topics, where the students have mixed equine experience.
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The increased demand from learners in higher education to access study materials at any time, at any location and increasingly on a range of platforms including mobile devices has resulted in considerable development in the usage of Reusable Learning Objects (RLO) across the sector (RLO-CETL, 2005; Jenkinson, 2009; Kurilovas et al., 2011; Windle et al., 2011; Windle et al., 2010). RLO, also known as Shared Content Objects (SCO) are self-contained digital resources such as video, audio, web-pages, documents and graphics which are stored and accessed independently and can be used to support web-based learning. Kay and Knaack (2007) expand on this by saying that RLO are interactive tools which enhance and amplify the cognitive processes of learners. Literature tells us that one purpose of RLO is to enable students to learn new skills (Windle et al., 2010), within a controlled environment, at a range of difficulty levels and with arrangements for regular feedback (AAMC, 2007). Although there have been a number of studies undertaken to examine the role of RLO in higher education, they originate from medicine and health sciences education in the main. Therefore, in the first instance, practice in Veterinary Education must draw from findings in other subject areas.

A number of researchers have identified that the underpinning rationale for developing RLO is wide ranging, but those studies have emphasized flexibility (Johnson et al., 2013; AAMC, 2007), achievement of higher grades (Windle et al., 2011; Lymn et al., 2008; Trowler, 2010; Bacsich et al., 2011), meeting the needs of professional practice (Windle et al., 2011; Windle et al., 2010; Keefe & Wharrad, 2012; DoH, 2011; Evans, 2013; Blake, 2010) or those of institutions (Johnson et al., 2013; AAMC, 2007; Concannon et al., 2005; Evans, 2013; Kurilovas et al., 2011) as opposed to attempting to impact student learning as a whole. Firstly, to help students achieve higher marks in summative assessment and/or an improved overall outcome (Trowler, 2010), educators typically supplement face to face teaching (Lymn et al., 2008) with additional learning resources. The need to do this may in part be explained by the challenging nature of a subject for some students (Windle et al., 2011; Lymn et al., 2008). It has also been reported that some students feel they lack time to study content heavy modules, so they take a superficial approach to their studies, over which they feel they have limited control (Windle et al., 2011). To be effective, RLO require students to actively engage with the content (Johnson et al., 2013; AAMC, 2007). We know that student engagement per se is the extent to which students take an active role in a range of educational activities and that this process is likely to lead to high quality deeper learning (Trowler, 2010). Furthermore, formative assessment as a function within RLO would be advantageous in terms of preparing students for the high stakes summative assessment. RLO have been found to have a significant effect on examination result (Windle et al., 2011; Keefe and Wharrad, 2012), where RLO users have achieved an improved performance in assessment over non-users (Johnson et al., 2013).

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