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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Computer Science - Mathematics - Mental Health - Neuroscience - Science Policy

Content-Based VLE Designs Improve Learning Efficiency in Constructivist Statistics Education
Published: Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Author: Patrick Wessa et al.

by Patrick Wessa, Antoon De Rycker, Ian Edward Holliday

Background

We introduced a series of computer-supported workshops in our undergraduate statistics courses, in the hope that it would help students to gain a deeper understanding of statistical concepts. This raised questions about the appropriate design of the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) in which such an approach had to be implemented. Therefore, we investigated two competing software design models for VLEs. In the first system, all learning features were a function of the classical VLE. The second system was designed from the perspective that learning features should be a function of the course's core content (statistical analyses), which required us to develop a specific–purpose Statistical Learning Environment (SLE) based on Reproducible Computing and newly developed Peer Review (PR) technology.

Objectives

The main research question is whether the second VLE design improved learning efficiency as compared to the standard type of VLE design that is commonly used in education. As a secondary objective we provide empirical evidence about the usefulness of PR as a constructivist learning activity which supports non-rote learning. Finally, this paper illustrates that it is possible to introduce a constructivist learning approach in large student populations, based on adequately designed educational technology, without subsuming educational content to technological convenience.

Methods

Both VLE systems were tested within a two-year quasi-experiment based on a Reliable Nonequivalent Group Design. This approach allowed us to draw valid conclusions about the treatment effect of the changed VLE design, even though the systems were implemented in successive years. The methodological aspects about the experiment's internal validity are explained extensively.

Results

The effect of the design change is shown to have substantially increased the efficiency of constructivist, computer-assisted learning activities for all cohorts of the student population under investigation. The findings demonstrate that a content–based design outperforms the traditional VLE–based design.

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