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Synergistic Learning Environment Using Blackboard Learning Cells

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Innovations in Teaching Physics or Engineering Physics

Tagged Division

Engineering Physics & Physics

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1113.1 - 14.1113.9



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Paper Authors

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Adrian Ieta State University of New York, Oswego

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Rachid Manseur State University of New York, Oswego


Thomas Doyle McMaster University Orcid 16x16

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Thomas E. Doyle holds a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering Science (2006) from The University of Western Ontario, Canada. He also holds a B.E.Sc. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, a B.Sc. in Computer Science, and an M.E.Sc in Electrical and Computer Engineering from The University of Western Ontario. He worked on industrial projects with PlasSep Ltd, within the Applied Electrostatics Research Centre and the Digital Electronics Research Group at The University of Western Ontario and is an IEEE member and a registered Professional Engineer of Ontario. He taught at the University of Western Ontario and is currently Assistant Professor at McMaster University, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Synergistic learning environment using Blackboard learning cells

We report on an innovative approach to teaching Introductory Physics to general education students. Presentations can engage students meaningfully but employing the technique in large classes may be problematic. We tested the method on a class of sixty six students. Blackboard was used for student interaction; students were divided in six groups and Blackboard discussion groups were created accordingly. Questions pertaining to the covered topics and related to the students’ majoring fields were formulated progressively in sets of six, weekly. Students from each group had to negotiate and be responsible for the question assigned to the group. A presentation session was introduced once a week. Although a relatively small weight of the presentation component was assigned, a positive atmosphere of support and collaboration was created. Students also practised their internet research skills by using audio and video resources available online. A synergistic effect was created due to the presentation component, which allowed all students to identify and reflect on physics ideas and their applications. The successful aspects together with possible improvements of the teaching procedures are reported.

1. Introduction The use of Blackboard system [1] is widespread now and is recommended over regular course websites [2], as it is significantly more versatile for course management and interaction with students. The system is most effective for distance courses [3] as online courses [4] can be delivered in a consistent meaningful manner even if recent works show that there are some challenges associated with distance learning [5]. The system has great built in flexibility and allows instructors to use their imagination in designing the course [6], interacting with students, or documenting activity requirements [7]. In addition, it also facilitates the peer assessment process [8].

The Physics general education courses may sometimes present challenges due to the highly heterogeneous student population and to the level of interest in the course. Large classes also present challenges in engaging students during class time as well as in verifying the academic integrity of the submitted homework [9].

In the initial stages of the course, students often fail to see or acknowledge the relevance of the material to their field of studies. An initial in-class survey shows that student interest varies from 0 to 10 (10 being the maximum possible). Fig.1 shows the frequency of the answers with an average of 6.61 out of 10. There are various techniques developed by Physics instructors to engage students in the learning process. We have particularly designed the course to increase student interaction and allow them to make connections among the taught concepts and their relevance to personal interests. We innovatively made use of the available technology, particularly the Blackboard system. In any larger class it may often be difficult to make students active and to stimulate them to bring their own contributions to the course. The procedure we employed and on which we presently report used the Blackboard system in order to create virtual cells that can also interact. The taught class – Physics 100 level, four contact hours– comprised 66 students and we

Ieta, A., & Manseur, R., & Doyle, T. (2009, June), Synergistic Learning Environment Using Blackboard Learning Cells Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4837

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