Online self-assessment materials: do these make a difference to student learning?
In our changing world where university students are demanding a greater say in their tertiary education, and in particular are demanding a greater flexibility in the way they receive their instruction, it is imperative that we investigate and experiment with course delivery strategies that fulfil these expectations. Online delivery of learning materials is not new, nor is it the panacea for all problems, but it does offer certain advantages for both teachers and students. The flexibility of using the Web may suit certain teaching activities, but more importantly may suit the learning styles and commitments of the students. In the current economic climate students may have to juggle university activities with employment, potentially missing some of the structured teaching and learning sessions. In addition they may not have time to use campus-based course materials or seek face-to-face assistance from staff. An Australian benchmark survey of the first-year experience (Mclnnis, James and McNaught, 1995), found the pressures of part-time work made it extremely difficult for some students to fulfil course expectations. A 1998 survey of firstyear science students at the University of Sydney revealed that 54 per cent of full-time students are undertaking some form of employment, with 31 per cent working ten hours or more per week during semester, and 14 per cent working over fifteen hours per week (Peat and Franklin, 1998). A small shift away from courses comprising all face-to-face activities to courses with a mix of face-to-face and online activities has the potential to help those very students who may otherwise give up when the pressure of time and other commitments seems too difficult to cope with