Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Interactivity, Flexibility, and Experience: What Test Students Liked About the "New Neurons for You After All" E-Lab  

Science Approach's e-labs are reviewed by scientists and experts in inquiry-based pedagogy. Most importantly, the e-labs are tested by students. Feedback from reviewers and testers is used to improve the e-labs.

Science Approach's growing body of formative research data points to three characteristics that make them attractive to students. These characteristics are reflected in comments provided by undergraduate students who tested the recently released "New Neurons for You After All" e-lab.

Interactivity

Science Approach's e-labs are interactive, but not in the manner that the term "interactivity" is commonly used. In Science Approach's e-labs, students do not compete with a machine to score points, travel through reconstructed virtual environments, or manipulate research apparati in a simulated laboratories. Instead, in our e-labs, students interact with real research data using tools similar to those employed by practicing scientists. Student gather data, summarize it with statistical tools, test hypotheses, analyze the results, and apply what they have learned to real life. In sum, they apprentice as research assistants. According to one student tester:

The e-lab provided a really interactive way of learning a new and relevant concept (neurogenesis), a concept with which I had limited experience or knowledge.


Flexibility

Science Approach's Moodle-based e-labs can be accomplished by students any time they wish. The e-labs also permit students to jump among topics and review what they already covered. Students can log into the e-learning system, do part of an e-lab, take a break, and return to the e-lab later. Even experiments conducted in the e-labs may be suspended. One student tester particularly liked the flexibility in the "New Neurons" e-lab:

The delivery of the topic of this lab was great! It allows one to move from module to module with little effort, and the ability to go back to look at something previously covered is helpful as well. I also liked that you didn't have a set amount of time to finish the lab in, and that you could leave it and come back at a more convenient time.


Experience

The primary goal of Science Approach's e-labs is to immerse students in scientific inquiry as it is done by practicing researchers. In the "New Neurons" e-lab, students count BrdU-labeled cells in hippocampal tissue sections from rats exposed to four experimental conditions: running/solitary; running/social; sedentary/solitary; and sedentary/social. Two students voiced their enthusiasm for this hands-on approach to neuroscience education:

...you got to actually collect data yourself and not just read about data collected by someone else.
[The e-lab helped me] ...to get a feel for what research is like.

Try the "New Neurons for You After All" e-lab yourself. Visit Science Approach's website for more information and a coupon code.

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