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J Vet Med Educ. 2005 Spring;32(1):86-92.

Web-based technology: its effects on small group "problem-based learning" interactions in a professional veterinary medical program.

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College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Anatomy W-102, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1601, USA.


The objective of this investigation was to ascertain whether and how the introduction of a new technology (WebCT) influenced faculty teaching styles while facilitating small group problem-based learning (PBL) sessions in a professional veterinary medical (PVM) program. The following questions guided the study: (1) How does the use of technology affect faculty teaching behaviors? (2) Do the facilitators' interactions with WebCT technology change over the course of one semester? (3) What is the perceived impact of WebCT on facilitators' role in PBL? The study employed a combination of qualitative (case study) and semi-quantitative (survey) methods to explore these issues. Nine clinical sciences faculty members, leading a total of six PBL groups, were observed over the course of an academic semester for a total of 20 instructional sessions. The qualitative data gathered by observing faculty as they facilitated PBL sessions yielded three major themes: (1) How do PBL facilitators adapt to the addition of WebCT technology? (2) Does this technology affect teaching? and (3) How do PBL facilitators interact with their students and each other over the course of a semester? No direct evidence was found to suggest that use of WebCT affected teaching behaviors (e.g., student-centered vs. teacher-centered instruction). However, all facilitators showed a moderate increase in comfort with the technology during the semester, and one participant showed remarkable gains in technology skills. The teaching theme provided insight into how facilitators foster learning in a PBL setting as compared to a traditional lecture. A high degree of variability in teaching styles was observed, but individuals' styles tended to remain stable over the course of the semester. Nevertheless, all facilitators interacted similarly with students, in a more caring and approachable manner, when compared to the classroom or clinic atmospheres.

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