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How Design of Online Learning Materials Can Accommodate the Heterogeneity in Student Abilities, Aptitudes and Aspirations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-25
JournalLearning and teaching in Higher Education
Volume2
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Abstract

We describe the challenges facing higher education in terms of the heterogeneity of the cohort of students that arrive at university. The reasons why such diversity exists are many: students differ widely in terms of their preparedness for study at university, their degree choice aspirations and the issue of motivation for study of a particular subject. We illustrate how well-designed e-learning course materials can support many of the particular facets of heterogeneity by offering an inherently non-linear pathway through a collection of materials, so as to offer a degree of personalisation of the learning experience.

Drawing on our own experience of several years’ development
of extensive online materials to support the traditional teaching methods of a large first year physics course at the University of Edinburgh, we highlight three aspects of the design of e-learning materials that facilitate this personalisation. These are: a highly granular source of individual learning objects; online constructions (‘one-downs’ and ‘popups’) that provide additional depth and breadth of material; and the ability to import external resources adapted to the local context.

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