Evaluation of a web-based tertiary statistics course using a problem-based learning approach
Sam, Hong Kian
A compulsory postgraduate statistics course was delivered as a Web-based course using the problem-based learning approach at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. In this course, the 26 participants were presented with authentic problems that they tackled in small groups via computer conferencing. Quantitative and qualitative methods including questionnaires, interviews, e-mail messages, and computer conferencing transcripts were used to evaluate the effects of this mode of teaching. In particular, this study was interested in the participants' satisfaction with and achievement in the learning environment; the participants' attitudes toward statistics; the relationships between course satisfaction and achievement with participants' characteristics and instructional variables; and evidence of critical thinking. Findings in this study showed that a majority of the participants were satisfied with their learning experiences and achieved comparable learning outcomes with participants in face-to-face versions of the course. However, there were no significant improvements in their attitudes toward statistics. Although most participants were happy about the problem-based approach, a third felt that they were unable to contribute to or learn from the computer conferencing sessions. While there were isolated evidences of critical thinking in the computer conferences, the overall quality of the discussions was of a low cognitive level. Factors such as scholastic aptitude, mathematics background, and attitudes toward statistics seemed to influence achievement in the course and participation in the computer conferences. As Web-based courses require more commitment than face-to-face courses, participants need to be more active, motivated and self-disciplined. Participants lacking adequate mathematics and computing background need to prepare themselves by taking prerequisite courses. To overcome the perceived lack of instructor presence in the course, the instructor may need to schedule more face-to-face sessions at the beginning of the course and provide technical and content support through e-mail and other communication means. Cooperative learning structures of dividing learning tasks or homogeneous grouping may be required for the computer conferencing sessions.
Advisor: Lai, Kwok-Wing; Holton, Derek
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Education
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis