Case study: University of Queensland

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Dr Andrew Allsebrook, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, University of Queensland, explains how Learning Science has helped his 1,200 students delve deeper in their lab practicals.

INSTITUTION

University of Queensland, Australia

LEVEL

Undergraduate

SUBJECTS

Chemistry

The fact that Learning Science are a team of scientists and developers means that they understand the types of questions we want to ask.
— Dr Andrew Allsebrook, University of Queensland
 

“We wanted to give students a chance to develop and learn.”

Dr Andrew Allsebrook teaches chemistry with University of Queensland where 1,200 first year students keep him on his toes. He tells us: “the challenge is to ensure continuous learning, because we don’t see the students in the lab as much as we’d like.”

“We wanted to give students a chance to develop and learn. We had a focus group with students and tutors. Students appreciated the work we’d put in, the information in the lab manual, and the online resources. But, the nature of how we ran labs, meant students didn’t feel they had the chance to immerse themselves in each practical.” 

University of Queensland had tried online quizzes but found them rigid and unable to provide the feedback they needed. Dr Allsebrook saw how students waiting a week or longer for feedback stopped them using the insight from one practical to prepare for the next.

He acted to find a solution, and a faculty teaching and learning grant funded an investigation into improving pre- and post-lab first-year teaching. As part of this Dr Allsebrook contacted Learning Science.

Reflux simulation by Learning Science

Reflux simulation by Learning Science

“I’ve never seen pre-lab quizzes on the screen in the lab so often.”

The depth of Learning Science resources and the way they are used at University of Queensland continually evolves. Dr Allsebrook now sees students using pre-lab quizzes in the lab for problem solving.

“I’ve never seen the pre-lab quizzes on the screen in the lab so often. Students are using them for the simulations, and often going back to the pre-lab to see things step-by-step.”

But it’s not just preparation which has changed. Dr Allsebrook recalls how the final minutes of many lab sessions had been a scramble for students to record results. Now, if a practical goes well, there is plenty of time for students to record their results. However, when things don’t quite follow the script, Learning Science helps give the students time to calmly reflect and record results. 

“Moving post lab quizzes online has enabled students to feel they have the opportunity to learn in the lab and get results. The feedback from students is great, they can put it all on the computer, and get immediate feedback. We also found the accuracy and depth of short answer results improved as a result of replacing paper results sheets with on-line quizzes.”

 
Students don’t need to worry waiting for results, they get them immediately, apply what they’ve learnt, reflect, and move on.
— Dr Andrew Allsebrook, University of Queensland
 

“I couldn’t go back to our previous VLE. If the students had to go back to that, I think they’d rebel.”

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Dr Allsebrook and his team are getting results. Not just in student satisfaction, but with wider recognition too.

“When I started, we had a strong chemistry team. We’ve since won a University of Queensland award for large course teaching, an Australian national award for our large course programme, and I received the SCMB Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education in 2018 for the work summarised in this case study.”

Learning Science has been credited by Dr Allsebrook with helping him progress the way his students learn.

“Over 90% of the students engaged with the simulation in the first semester, and it’s grown from there. Now they’re going back multiple times. We’ve introduced Learning Science to second year chemistry now and can see the benefits of using it with future years as these students go through their undergraduate career with us.

“Building on what we’ve done working with [Learning Science] and developing options for even more of our labs is the future for us.”