Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Using Computer Software to Provide Case Studies
Originator Jane Wellens
Department Department of Geography, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK
Tel. +44 (0)116 252 3846
Fax +44 (0)116 252 3854

A decision was recently taken to use the 'Biogeography' module in the GeographyCal software series as a replacement for some lectures in a second-year module on 'Biogeography and Ecology' in the Department of Geography at the University of Leicester. The aim is to teach the broad theoretical perspective in lectures and to use the software, which focuses on heathlands and moorlands, as case studies to illustrate the principles covered in the remaining lectures.

When the lectures were replaced by software, the tutor sat in the computer laboratory to offer students assistance. However, because the modules are relatively self contained, the students' questions were more to do with getting the software to run than on their contents.

This is the first year that this material has been used in this way, and the experiment has thrown up a number of issues which will lead to a modification in the way they are used in the future. Two of the more interesting are that:

Nevertheless, in the final exam for the module, most students used case studies on heathlands and moorlands derived from the software as examples. Also, when most of the students attended a fieldtrip in the Peak District, as part of another second-year module on environmental techniques, they were able to interpret the vegetation on the moorland quite successfully, despite having only encountered descriptions on the software module previously. This evidence seems to suggest that although students do not always appear to use the software in the way that tutors might have wished or planned, they do appear to get something useful out of using it.


Case studies

This is one of the case studies which appears in the GDN Guide "Teaching and Learning Geography with Information and Communication Technologies"

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