Teaching in higher education is always in a state of change, adapting to new government and university policies, technological developments, changing student demographics and innovations in pedagogical theory and practices. Recently, changes to how teaching and learning is theorized and enacted in the classroom as a result of technological advances has led to the incorporation of blended learning into higher education courses. This presentation describes how an existing epidemiology and biostatistics course was redesigned in light of the University adopting a blended learning approach to teaching. In 2013 an evaluation of PUB361 Epidemiology and Biostatistics was conducted using qualitative information from Student Evaluation of Teaching and Course (SETAC) evaluations (completed by 20 of 63 students (33.9% response rate)), one 30-minute focus group with two anonymous student volunteers, and a one-hour focus group comprising the lecturer and the tutor in epidemiology and the lecturer and tutor in biostatistics. Using a modified version of Glaser and Strauss’s (1967) grounded theory five areas of challenge for the course were identified: volume of content; authenticity of content; course scheduling; disconnect between the two course components; and the authenticity of the assessment. A potential solution to these challenges was identified through the use of a VLE called The Island. The Island is a virtual fictitious island populated by villagers. To use The Island, students devise a research question, develop an epidemiological study design, collect data from selected villagers who complete specific tasks and then analyse the findings using a statistical software package. The Island was designed into the 2014 course offering. Ongoing research indicates that The Island has proved effective in addressing the challenges identified in 2013. The process of conducting a formal course evaluation in the context of introducing blended learning may prove useful in other higher education courses looking to introduce blended learning.
2015 University Research Conference: Integrate, Innovate, Inspire, Sunshine Coast, Australia 13-16 July 2015