Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
||WWW in a Self-Taught Isotope Geology Course
||Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, UK
This course is almost entirely Web-based with an introductory lecture and some
follow-up lectures. I have been teaching a second year isotope geochemistry
course for the past five years. I decided to try the WWW approach for several
- The students have a wide range of abilities (particularly in terms of their
- It is not clear to me that the best way of transferring skills is to stand
up in front of a lecture theatre and seek to transfer my notes to the students
with minimal transcription errors. In addition, these lectures do not require
a great deal of student-lecturer interaction of the type that might take place
in exploring more open ended concepts in higher level courses.
- The traditional course has relatively few practical classes in which to
explore the students understanding of the course.
- The skills they learn from the isotope course form the basis for courses
taught later in the 2nd and 3rd years. If the students have not fully grasped
the isotope concepts when the course was first presented, they have to rely
on their own notes (that are often inadequate) or try and follow the text
I designed the WWW Isotope Course to try and address these issues. Specifically:
- It allows students to work through the material at their own pace.
- The material is available for review at any time during the student's time
at Bristol and it is unfiltered by the note taking process in the classroom.
- Self assessment exercises at the end of each of the modules allow the student
to test their understanding.
- Exercises include hints and some feedback on where they are likely to go
What are the likely pitfalls?
The students won't bother to do the course.
Yes this is likely, but every year there are a small percentage that don't
bother turning up. University students are adults; if they can't be bothered
to work it is not our job to chase them.
The students will feel abandoned.
I recognise that this is a problem, so I have organised a weekly "surgery"
to help support the students that still have problems understanding the material.
How will the course develop?
- Through the surgeries I hope to be able to identify the areas where students
find most problems and amend the course accordingly.
- I intend to give a few lectures about the applications of isotopes so that
the students could see the point of the work and keep up their interest.
- I would like to make the course look more attractive in terms of its presentation,
but this requires support in terms of man hours and we have not yet been given
the resources to do this.
- I would like to put the course on CD so that students can take it home with
them and revise over vacations.
- Because the course is in an electronic format it would be simple to add
more advanced material to support specific isotope applications for higher
level geology courses, or post graduate level applications.
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Page created 5 June 2000
Database pages maintained by Phil Gravestock