Science students’ insights into learning in intensive mode subjects

Year: 2018

Author: Elaine, Huber, Davila, Yvonne, Thomson, Alexandra, Meier, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Intensive mode delivery (IMD) of subjects and courses offer a more flexible option for today’s diverse student body, many of whom have to juggle work and carer responsibilities (Burton & Nesbit, 2008). A recent review of the IMD literature found a dearth of studies of undergraduate science students’ perceptions and related achievements (Harvey, Power & Wilson, 2017). Furthermore, they found little evidence that science subjects in Australia are being taught in IMD at the undergraduate level. This study fills this gap by investigating science students’ perceptions of learning in IMD undergraduate subjects. We used a survey instrument to canvas 260 undergraduate science students’ perceptions of studying IMD across 17 subjects at one Australia Metropolitan university. These subjects ran for an average of 3 weeks and had the same learning outcomes as the 12 week semester-long subject using a standard mode delivery (SMD).
Using thematic analysis on the open ended comments and descriptive statistics on students’ responses we investigated: why they chose to study in IMD (46% to accelerate their study plan); whether they would do so again (71% said yes): and, how they found their learning experience, including how they found the pace of learning (56% said ‘fast' or 'too fast’ though 44% said ‘just right’).
Using chi-square goodness of fit tests to compare grade distributions (GD), we found that in 14 out of 17 subjects, GD were significantly different in the IMD compared to the SMD. These relationships are complex, eight had significant differences positively towards IMD, three positively towards SMD and three had an irregular pattern to the differences. This paper presents these findings, compares the perceptions to achievements and examines the implications for designing good student learning experiences for IMD in undergraduate science.

Burton, S., & Nesbit, P. L. (2008). Block or traditional? An analysis of student choice of teaching format. Journal of Management & Organization, 14(1), 4–19.

Harvey, M., Power, M., & Wilson, M. (2017). A review of intensive mode of delivery and science subjects in Australian universities. Journal of Biological Education, 51(3), 315–325.