Celebrate Science held at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum was a great success.  Teachers, librarians, parents and teacher candidates attended this event to learn about science books and the joys of learning science.  Keynote speaker Dr. Jeannette Whitton is a UBC botanist and she shared information about her passion looking at plant species.  Her research involves looking at populations of plant species that occur hundreds or thousands of kilometers apart but somehow maintain their genetic and evolutionary integrity. She considers how changes in chromosome numbers and breeding system influence the ecological and genetic interactions of populations. Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone offered ways of focusing on science just by looking out your window. 

They’re addicted to Facebook and slaves to their smartphones — “digital natives” trying to navigate the post-secondary world. But as universities spend millions on e-learning tools to help cater to this tech-savvy generation, current students say they’re learning more in classes that don’t have all the technological bells and whistles.

In fact, the first Canadian study of its kind has discovered that students prefer — and learn more — when a live lecturer stands at an unadorned podium. The finding surprised even the study’s authors.

“We were expecting to see evidence of what’s known as the ‘digital native’ era and we just didn’t see that,” said Joseph Berger, director of business development and communications at Higher Education Strategy Associates, the Canadian education consultancy that published the study. “It’s not the portrait we expected whereby students would embrace anything that happens on a more highly technological level. It’s to the contrary — they really seem to like access to human interaction, a smart person at the front of the classroom.”

The study to probe the attitudes and preferences of students being taught with online resources found the more technology there was in a particular course, the lower the proportion of students who said they learned more. And while the 1,370 undergraduate students from more than 60 universities nationwide were generally happy with their courses, those with more message boards and websites where students can access grades and study notes were associated with a drop in satisfaction compared with courses with less online interaction.

E-learning tools have become far more common at Canadian universities over the past 10 to 15 years in the face of sky-high enrolment rates (Ontario’s first-year undergraduate enrolment hit a record 90,000 this fall) and the constant challenge of always getting better.

The study went on to find that more than half of respondents said they would be more likely to skip courses with more online resources because it’s easier to catch up later. Four out of five students said they’d rather watch a live stream of a lecture than attend it in person.

To read the entire article, published in the National Post, click here.

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