In our university, the first year statics course is taken by three distinct groups of students. They are the regular direct entry students in the September term, international students of a special programme in an extended summer term, and (mainly) students who are repeating the course, in a regular summer term. The students in these three terms have a diverse background. Those in the September term are mainly from domestic school systems, with international students being in the minority. In the extended summer term, all the students are international, with only about half from school systems modelled on domestic ones, and their prior knowledge varies greatly. In the regular summer term, the majority of the students are repeating the course and could already know as much as almost half of the prescribed content. To cater to those whose learning needs are different from their classmates, funding was secured to develop media and teaching materials mainly intended for blended delivery, but also suitable for automated delivery and self-learning. With such media, those who need more exposure to specific parts of the content can get up to speed with the rest of the class on their own. On the other hand, those with a more advanced prior knowledge (e.g., repeating students) can progress at a faster pace. A complementary goal of the project is to make the relevant media available to a physics for the life sciences course in the university. Students in the physics course add to the diversity of the students' prior knowledge, since some of them do not have physics at the high school level. The full duration of the project is three years. In accordance with the project schedule, by September 2019, modules for the first half of the statics course were developed. The schedule calls for the remaining modules to be developed by September 2020, and be implemented in that term.
This paper on evidence-based practice presents the pre-implementation study to compare the effectiveness of two of these modules against conventional lectures. This study has been approved by the Behavioral Research Ethics Board of our university. The students enrolled in the statics course were divided randomly by the university’s learning management system into two groups. In week five of the September term, when students have settled down with the routine of university life, one group was given access to the module on moments and couples in three dimensions, and encouraged not to attend lecture, while the other group did not get access and attended lecture as usual. In the following week, the two groups swapped the method of learning for the topic on reduction of a system of forces to a wrench. For both methods of learning, at appropriate points in the lesson, students worked on in-lecture activities, which are calculation questions with randomised numerical values on the textbook publisher’s online resource website. The performance of each group in each topic was measured by two questions in the midterm exam, held slightly over a week after the second lesson of the experiment. Qualitative feedback on the modules was sought from students in a pre-midterm exam survey. Additionally, the participation rate for the in-lecture activities was recorded at various intervals after lessons begin. The outcome of this study will be used to guide the development of the remaining modules and draw up guidelines on how to utilise the modules most effectively.
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