Continuous Improvement in e-Learning: Investigating the Effect and Impact of Our WebCT Chemistry Support Initiative (CSI) and Implications for Further Enhancement of the Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) Developed
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A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) was developed using WebCT software and was piloted in 2004 in the School of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences in DIT by the authors. This was one of a number of measures introduced with the aim of supporting and retaining first year undergraduates on the Science ordinary degree programme and was designed as a Chemistry Support Initiative (CSI) for first year Chemistry learning and teaching (O’Connor, 2005). This work was supported through funding from the DIT Learning and Teaching Centre which allowed a summer research assistant to be taken on. Since the launch of the first WebCT VLE in our School in September 2004, a VLE has been created for each year of each programme we deliver. This was facilitated by the fact that the first WebCT template design could be adapted quite easily and that first year students expected to continue to have a VLE available as they progressed. Currently, VLEs are used to support undergraduate Chemistry students from their first to their final year. WebCT has also proven to be very effective in the support of taught postgraduate programmes (both full and part-time) and as a tool for the administration and management of our School through the use of a WebCT site for staff. Now in the third year of use, the level of integration of WebCT VLEs in our School has been evaluated to assess the current (i) use by staff and (ii) use by students. The research is aimed at providing guidelines for the development and utilisation to their full extent of the existing VLEs and optimising their pedagogical application in a ‘blended approach’ to learning and teaching chemistry. An investigation has also been carried out to discover what other applications of the VLE have been developed by individual members of staff and what affects staff participation in e-Learning. As part of the evaluation process, the types of VLE developed in our school will be examined as will their impact on learning and teaching. This paper seeks to examine the development and integration of VLEs in our school and to identify pedagogical applications of this learning tool for future learning enhancement.
O'Connor, C., McDonnell, C., Seery, M.: Continuous Improvement in e-Learning: Investigating the Effect and Impact of Our WebCT Chemistry Support Initiative (CSI) and Implications for Further Enhancement of the Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) Developed. EdTech, DIT, Bolton St., May 2007.