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Presentation 3D2. Teaching Statistics and Research Methods in an Virtual Learning Environment

Hans van Buuren (The Netherlands)


Presentation Abstract

In 1998, the Open University of the Netherlands (OUNL) launched a Statistics and Research Methods innovation project, which aims (1) to have students within asynchronous distributed learning groups use the OUNL Extranet for computer-mediated communication, co-ordination and collaboration (CMC) so as (2) to acquire quantitative Research Methods and Data Analysing Skills by repeatedly performing a complete case based research assignment, and (3) to let such skills improve gradually by targeting twelve 'increasing levels of Statistics and Research methods competence'. A series of pilot studies will be set up to build a 'Virtual Research Centre' (VRC). The main thrust of the innovation project is that it acts as the frontrunner for an integral redesign of the Psychology Curriculum.

The project is based on a holistic practice oriented approach to teach statistics and research methods. Each student is required to perform a complete research cycle, going through the stages of:
1. Research design: stating the research problem and drafting the research plan
2. Data collection: including the development of measurement instruments
3. Data analysis: including data processing
4. Discussing and reporting: including feedback to the research questions and recommendations for further research or actions and a reflection on their own work.

Using the VRC to frame the Statistics and Research Methods study tasks, we experimentally explore the fundamental premise, that acquiring Statistics and Research Methods competence by distance learning is 'best' enhanced by combination and integration of three disciplines:
1. Competence-oriented Statistics and Research Methods (teaching)
2. Empirically grounded psychology or another content domain (contextualisation)
3. Educational technology, that is Information and Communication Technology applied within electronic learning environments: ICT-tools for communication, co-ordination and collaboration, for access to reference documents and knowledge sources, and for Statistics-specific goals like data processing.

However, this is not to say that study assignments should be completely virtual: students definitively have to experience what it means to be an interviewer or data analyst.
In the meantime five of the proposed competence levels have been developed and tried out. I will discuss the outcomes of the experiments, especially the experiences of students with learning statistics in this integrated manner.


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