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1b. VSG Project: Findings, methods

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A multi-disciplinary approach.     

During May 2003, I ran the project with 42 participants from 24 universities, based in 11 different countries. In addition, I recruited five internationally renowned HIV researchers to participate as ‘guest lecturers. The guests interacted in synchronous chat sessions to provide students with the opportunity to interact with researchers in immunology, genomics, epidemiology, and mathematical modeling/computational biology. This experience further underscored the students’ appreciation for the multi-disciplinary nature of research. The diversity of experience and background of the students were also instrumental in creating the rich tapestry of this online research community. The hour-long sessions were characterized by intense, creative dialogue, in which the students not only enquired in depth about the scientists’ research, but even suggested novel approaches that the scientists themselves had not considered. The guest lecturers were highly enthusiastic about their experiences interacting with the keen students, and requested to be included in future projects. The VSG project became an international ‘research, learning and teaching community’, which drew its strength from the strong sense of ownership and commitment that had evolved amongst the students and myself.     


Cognitive and affective components of inquiry-based learning    

What data did I collect to determine whether my approach had any impact on learning?The asynchronous discussions amongst the research team were an enormous source of rich data that provided me with detailed insights into how the students progressed together as collaborative learning communities.I used the SOLO taxonomy (Biggs & Collis, 1982) to code the postings for cognitive levels of interaction and discussion.Interestingly, a key catalyst for group learning was the affective component, which I analysed and coded by adapting Sringam and Geer's Cognitive Development Interactive Analysis Model (Sringam and Geer, 2000).



Biggs, J.B. & Collis, K.F. (1982) Evaluating the quality of learning: the SOLO taxonomy. New York: Academic Press.

Sringam, C. & Geer, R. (2000) An investigation of an instrument for analysis of student-led electronic discussions. Paper presented at the Learning to Choose, ASCILITE 2000 Conference, Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia.

Takayama, K. (2005) “Teaching visualizing the science of genomics”, in Visualization in Science Education, J. K. Gilbert (ed), Dordrecht: Springer, pp 217-251.    


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