HOUSEMAN, J.G.; Univ. of Ottawa: Does the use of new technologies enhance learning in undergraduate zoology?

Over the past 10 years I have used a variety of different computer-based tools in the lecture and laboratory components of my Zoology and Invertebrate Zoology courses. These include: e-mail discussion groups, digital presentations and lab materials, course web sites and on-line self-evaluation tools. I’m often asked for some indication of whether using these tools works, but have always been uncomfortable with grades as an appropriate indicator of success. The flashlight project from the TLT Group, and in particular its Current Student Inventory, tries to identify if these tools are being used effectively by detecting if any of the Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education have been enhanced by the technology. The Inventory consists of questions designed to detect different “learning outcomes”- active learning, time on task, for example. The outcomes are related to the Seven Principles and answers to the questions identify whether that technology enhances or interferes with these outcomes. 140 questionnaires were distributed to students who took my courses over two years; 93 were returned. Nine of fourteen different outcomes were enhanced by the use of computer-based tools but they were not equally effective. The course web site and digital materials were most effective and e-mail discussion groups were the least effective. Results of the survey were used, in part, to determine what tools should be discarded from the courses and how existing materials could be improved. These were then combined to create the CD-ROM and student workbook Digital Zoology. Digital Zoology provides students courses such as general zoology, invertebrate zoology, and vertebrate zoology with an interactive guide to the specimens and materials that they will be studying in their laboratory and lecture sessions.