Design and learning outcomes of web-based instructional resources focused on the impacts of resource development on Native American lands
Klauk, Erin Elizabeth
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This study explored the use of web-based learning by introductory Earth science students (n = 269) to develop an understanding of how students learn in this environment. This was done in two stages. First, the design, development and testing of an online teaching resource about the impacts of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation (http://serc.carleton.edu/research_education/nativelands/navajo/index.html) was done using best practices in web design and a series of usability studies. Second, the effectiveness of this website as a learning tool was evaluated by engaging students in two instructional activities (jigsaw, Tewksbury, 1995; role playing, Teed, 2005) to measure learning outcomes in this digital environment. Data about the students, including assessment of learning style preferences, were collected, and student learning was measured by pre- and post-tests, observation logs and final exam questions. Research questions this study addressed include: (1) Do students effectively use this site to learn about the impacts of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation using an Earth system science approach?(2) What advice can be given to faculty who design similar resources and/or use this site to teach? (3) Does this site facilitate the learning style preferences described by Felder (1993)? (4) What do students actually do when working in this environment? (5) Does this thematic collection enable or hinder student learning? And (6) does this web-based thematic collection serve as a possible motivator for learning as suggested by Edelson (2001)? Results show that learning (at acceptable to excellent levels) was achieved by the majority of students; learning was mostly independent of larger course context including the instructor and material already covered; and learning adequately served students of all learning style preferences. Regardless of learning activity, this study demonstrated that learning goals must be clearly defined first to achieve desired learning outcomes. If the learning goal is content mastery, a jigsaw activity resulted in higher levels of performance; and for the affective domain, engaging students, and showing relevance and connections to their lives, a role playing activity may be better. In both cases, clear instructions and expectations are essential to achieve learning goals.