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The principal aim of this case study was to investigate students’ experiences of using online pre-lecture resources and their perceptions of their learning environment for the Introductory Chemistry module concerned. A subsidiary aim was to probe the experience of the lecturer involved of designing and piloting these resources and his perception of their impact on students’ learning. The student cohort who participated were a group of 49 first year level 8 undergraduate chemistry students at Technologicl University Dublin. These students took an Introductory Chemistry module over their first semester, the aim of which was to bring the level of understanding and knowledge of the entire cohort to a similar standard in the topics covered. One of the module lecturers developed a series of online pre-lecture resources designed to reduce the cognitive load experienced by these learners during their lectures. The basis of this research was the investigation of the qualitative variation in the ways that learners experienced their use of these online pre-lecture resources and their learning environment. The methodology selected was phenomenography and a mixed methods approach was used which involved an initial quantitative phase (Likert scale survey) which informed the major qualitative phase (phenomenographic interviews) that followed. The survey was distributed twice to the entire student cohort; in the second week of the module and in the first week of the second semester when the module summative examination was complete. The individual phenomenographic interviews were performed with nine participants within the first month of the second semester. A semi-structured interview with the lecturer who had designed the pre-lecture resources was also carried out to allow a comparison to be made between his perceptions of the learning environment and those of the students. Following analysis of the interviews, categories of description were arrived at for the different experiences students described, four for using the pre-lecture resources and three for perceptions of the learning environment. They were analysed using referential and structural aspects to produce outcome spaces for both units of analysis (the pre-lecture resources and the learning environment). The categories of description for each could be related to surface, strategic and deep approaches to learning and the findings will inform further redesign of the resources, particularly in relation to the multiple choice quiz component. The lecturer interview provided reinforcement for many of the accounts of experiences that emerged from the student interviews with the exception of a difference in perceptions in relation to the importance of allocating a continuous assessment mark to the resources. The findings from this study will now be applied to ensure that the intended learning outcomes for this module will be met by students who experience the learning environment in a variety of ways.
McDonnell, C. (2011) Learner Experiences of Online Pre-lecture Resources for an Introductory Chemistry Course at an Irish Higher Education Institution, Masters Dissertation, Technologicl University Dublin.