In-class use of laptop computers to enhance engagement within an undergraduate biology curriculum: Findings and lessons learned

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Bioscience Education





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Science, biology, student engagement, active learning, technology


Laptop computers were provided for use in three biology classes with differing formats (a second year lecture course of 100 students, a third/fourth year lecture course of 50 students, and a second year course with > 250 students, in groups of 25 during the laboratory portion of the class) to assess their impact on student learning and engagement. In lecture courses, laptop computers were used for web-based exercises to collect and analyse information while in the laboratory, these computers were used to compile student data into a single dataset for analysis. Over a three year study period, student responses were generated using surveys with a Likert response scale. In the third/fourth year lecture course, student satisfaction was the greatest; students strongly agreed that the laptop computers were enjoyable and helpful and felt that the classroom environment was very interactive. However, comparison of examination scores between years with and without laptop computer-based instruction did not show a measurable difference in student learning. In the second year lecture course, students had similar experiences but the average student responses were lower. In the laboratory course, student responses were neutral, possibly due to difficulties associated with limited time to familiarise themselves with the technology and/or variation in laboratory instructors. Student feedback indicated that technology can have a positive impact on student experience but difficulties with technical issues can counteract benefits, necessitating careful preparation and implementation of technology use.