There has been an increasing call to incorporate e-learning into Higher Education curricula, learning and teaching as a means to improve student learning outcomes and to enrich the student experience. In particular, Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) have proven benefits when employed within the context of sound models of instruction such as problem-based learning and are becoming widely adopted in university online and blended courses across diverse disciplines. VLEs may be of particular benefit to the study of epidemiology and biostatistics, where engaging students in real-life epidemiological research design and data collection can be difficult. Collecting real-life data within an epidemiological course context requires the use of human subjects, can take substantial time and often requires access to populations with the appropriate disease (and often rare diseases). Consequently, students may resort to collecting data from their friends and family as ‘subjects', raising ethical concerns; or, using equipment and resources outside the scope of the course. An alternative to real-life epidemiological studies is to have students collect data in a virtual environment. A number of ‘virtual worlds' are being developed to provide students with an holistic appreciation of their studies. Such environments are particularly useful in helping students understand issues in epidemiological research design by giving them more complex settings than they would have access to in real-life research. This presentation discusses the process of making an epidemiology and biostatistics undergraduate course in an Australian university more coherent, authentic, and engaging for students through incorporating a Virtual Learning Environment called The Island into its curriculum design. The challenges for undertaking this re-design to include blended learning are discussed and implications for other Higher Education discipline contexts are considered.
2014 Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference: Speaking back through research, Brisbane, Australia 30 November - 4 December 2014
Proceedings of the 2014 Australian Association for Research in Education Conference /