Document Type

Theses, Masters

Rights

This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only

Disciplines

5.3 EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES, *training, *pedagogy

Publication Details

Successfully submitted for the award of Master of Arts (MA) (Third level learning and teaching) to the Dublin Institute of Technology, 2006.

Abstract

This thesis is a formative evaluation research study. Its purpose is to establish if blending face-to-face and e-learning delivery methods can support the development of Phase 4 apprentice plumbers in mathematics in the Department of Construction Skills in the Dublin Institute of Technology. The study also included the design, development and evaluation of a mathematics web site called Plumatics 4 U which is grounded in established theoretical criteria for effective blended delivery within third level education. This web site is currently in use by Phase 4 apprentice plumbers and is delivered through WebCT. The CD accompanying this thesis contains a short film giving an overview of the web site.

The research design used a mixed method approach combining both quantitative and qualitative data derived from questionnaires, interviews, non-participant observation and focus group sessions. The research, which lasted three months, involved forty Phase 4 apprentices, half of whom had the Leaving Certificate and the remainder the Junior Certificate as their highest second level educational qualification. Only one of the research group was female and their ages ranged from twenty to twenty-three years. A literature review was conducted covering areas such as formative evaluation of third level programmes, blended learning models, social constructivist approaches to learning and teaching and principles of effective web course design. Primary studies were used to inform the research process and identify a suitable methodology and methods of data collection.

The principal findings of the research indicate that Phase 4 student apprentices who took part in the blended learning module, and whose highest second level educational qualification is the Junior Certificate, showed a 10% improvement in examination results in questions with a mathematical content. The research also indicates that if Phase 4 students are to be offered the opportunity to participate in e-learning, additional resources will be required and staff will need to be trained in the use of the WebCT platform. The staff who deliver mathematics to this group believe that an e-learning site as a learning and teaching resource should be encouraged and fostered in the department.

Feedback from students who took part in the study shows that their experience of e-learning was extremely positive and that 84% would like to participate in this type of delivery method in the future. The feedback also indicated that the Plumatics 4 U web site would benefit from certain revisions such as the addition of more self-tests and the integration of a grading scheme for these self-tests.

The conclusions of this research show that teaching mathematics using a blended learning strategy can lead to improved student performance in examinations. Finally, it is recommended that the Plumatics 4 U web site be made available to other Institutes of Technology that deliver the Phase 4 plumbing programme.