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Inquiry-based learning

Options:     Print Version - Inquiry-based learning, part 7 Print view

Networked learning

Information and communication technology- (ICT-) based approaches offer considerable possibilities for IBL, whether as blended or full distance learning. There are a whole range of benefits afforded by the different connections that ICT can enable, described by Goodyear (2001) as networked learning: students can talk to other students or their tutor, and learning resources can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere. Thus students can:

  • browse a database – McKinney and Levy (2006), for example, describe how Sheffield University’s Department of Psychology carries out an inquiry-based project with first-year students, who engage with the Lexis-Nexis Executive database of newspapers to look at the public presentation of psychology. They are supported by trained postgraduate tutors, as well as by discussion boards and live chat on WebCT, the university’s virtual learning environment.
  • have online discussions – in the Department of Music at Sheffield University, students on a distance learning MA are provided with some target articles which they then critique and discuss online. Students then negotiate their own topics for further discussion.

The following example, also from Sheffield University, shows how several different aspects of technology combine to create a highly interactive learning experience.

The aims of the foundational module, "Understanding Law", are to understand how law interacts in a dynamic fashion with the prevailing culture, and to change the way that students interact with basic legal material. Students need to see that there is more to law than applying rules in a mechanical fashion. An innovative electronic workbook will have research exercises designed to help them develop fundamental skills of legal inquiry, and then use effective arguments. The workbook will be supported by colloquia in technology-rich learning environments (teaching rooms with networked computers and electronic whiteboards) and students will be required to keep a portfolio showing evidence of their learning. See http://www.ukcle.ac.uk/directions/previous/issue12/cilass.html.

Multimedia can enhance resources, too. Sheffield University Management School is developing web-based case materials, including video clips and interviews from real organizations. The intention is to simulate the muddly contexts and situations that exist in the real world, to facilitate student inquiry and learn about applying concepts to make sense of those situations.