Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title A Computer-supported Independent Study Module
Originator Ifan Shepherd
Department Marketing Academic Group, Middlesex University Business School, The Burroughs, Hendon, London, NW4 4BT, UK
Tel. +44 (0)181 5819
Fax +44 (0)181 202 1539

At Middlesex University, a semester-long module in Environmental Monitoring Technologies was introduced in the second semester of the 1994-95 academic year. Because there were too many existing modules, it had to be added to the department's course portfolio as an independent study module. There would be no formal teaching; instead, computer-based work would be a major part of the students' learning experience.

Because of the considerable time needed to create effective tutorial courseware, it was decided not to deliver the module content by computer (for example, by developing interactive tutorial software). Instead, it was decided to present information to students using conventional printed materials, and to help them understand and absorb that material by requiring them to undertake practical exercises on the computer. In other words, the computer would be used for what it is usually best at doing: providing a laboratory for student practical work involving the active exploration of information.

Some two dozen 'study units' were created, each dealing with a clearly-defined topic, each including some essential reading and practical exercises, and each requiring between one and four hours of student time to complete. The laboratory element includes a considerable amount of computer-based image processing, and involves students downloading satellite data using a roof-mounted receiver. The assessment is entirely by coursework, and includes a class presentation and two written reports.

The main learning strategy adopted to encourage active learning was the inclusion of a number of questions in each study unit, and empty 'boxes' in which students were required to provide their observations, interpretations and answers. In order to ensure that they did not skim through the material, students were issued with one study unit at a time by the laboratory technician, and could only get the next unit when all boxes had been satisfactorily completed.

The following lessons can be drawn from running this module over the past five semesters:


Shepherd, I.D.H. (1996) The Self-Study Approach to Course Delivery: developing a computer-supported Geography module, GeoCal, 14, pp.6-9.


Computer based work
Independent study

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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