Online Team Based Learning (TBL) for facilitating a Scientific Research methods module: A microcosm of Learning and teaching in Ireland

O'Brien, Anne Marie and O'Hanlon, David (2021) Online Team Based Learning (TBL) for facilitating a Scientific Research methods module: A microcosm of Learning and teaching in Ireland.


BACKGROUND: Research methods is a module delivered across the all of the science programmes in Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT). This module is delivered in semester 1 of year 4 and is designed to prepare students for their final year capstone project in semester 2. In undertaking their chosen project, they write a comprehensive literature review and work mainly under their own initiative to complete the practical element of project which is laboratory or industry based. In Semester 1 the students work on referencing skills, scientific writing, using databases and citation software as well as preparing for the practical element by preparing a detailed project proposal. Traditionally this is carried out in a computer lab with introductory lectures and hands on individual activities. In this environment students are encouraged to talk with each other in the class and discuss the tasks they are doing, but tend not to.

DESCRIPTION: It was decided that this year we would trial using TBL in research methods. The intention was to develop the units and deliver them face to face in the class room. However, the onset of Covid19 changed all that, the units within the module were converted to TBL units then these were used in an online platform called LAMS (Learning Activity Management System) which was integrated in to Moodle and delivered via zoom (which is also integrated into Moodle). The 22 students logged into Zoom and LAMS with their AIT student accounts and this enabled them to be assigned to one of 4 teams in LAMS. These teams remained the same throughout the semester and were also the basis of the pre-assignment to breakout rooms for zoom. The students didn’t know what to expect as this was so new in terms of pedagogy and also the online delivery.

RESULTS: The Students embraced the concept very quickly; most students came to class prepared having done the prereading. They enthusiastically took part in the iRAT, tRAT and team Application Exercises (AE). Even the peer evaluation was well received. On entering the breakout rooms during AEs the energy and engagement of the students with tasks and each other was very apparent. This further translated in to good quality classroom discussion when back in the main room. Anecdotally this level of engagement and class discussion is something that lecturers struggle with while delivering lecturer via online platforms. The students said that they enjoyed the classes and felt that the process was very interactive, engaging and was a motivating factor for them and that the process gave them more confidence to speak out in front of the online class.

CONCLUSION: As a results of the student response to this and other TBL initiative’s and the quality of the work produced, TBL is set to be introduced across a full programme and many more modules encompassing all faculties in AIT.

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