A multimedia scenario-based learning package, which can be accessed either in the computer or through the Internet, is prepared for the students of a telecommunication course. This learning package is to simulate a scenario which is close to the students' future working environment. Using up-to-date information and multimedia technology, it can simulate issues and conditions similar to those encountered in the field. Students can virtually walk around and realize how the actual working environment should be. They can also take this opportunity to study how different equipment can be interconnected together and how to operate those equipment. Student can use this virtual environment to understand deeper about the operation and the theory behind. Further explanation will be displayed in hierarchical way to suit different background of students. This scenario-based learning package is to let all students have chance to virtually immerse in a scenario to enhance their learning and practical knowledge. Preliminary study shows that this scenario-based learning is well accepted by students and is worth for further study.
In fact, including multimedia technology can make a transformation of the nature of teaching/learning from reception to engagement, from classroom to real world, from isolation to interconnection, and from exclusive access to a global campus (Byrnes, Lo, & Dimbleby, 1995). Virtual teaching or learning can provide a variety of interactions which include interactive techniques used to present each concept; interactive exercises which help learners integrate multiple concepts; interactive simulations that challenge learners with decision-making situations encountered in the real world; interactive games to increase retention and provide motivation for learning (Whelan, 1997). Virtual teaching is proved to make remote learning easier, more convenient and encouraging interactive learning and feedback (Chu et. al., 1999). Also, computer or Internet access is so well suited to produce discovery learning environment which involve a lot of interactivity, feedback and challenge.
On the other hand, increasing time for practical work will equip students with more useful knowledge for their future career (Chan, 1997). Engineering is found upon a variety of rules, theorems, and devices that must be understood by the student and which involve primarily knowledge-based learning; but students must also learn to apply that knowledge practically through problem solving and design exercise (Ericksen & Kim, 1998; Chu, 1999). This provides a good reason to support remote-access practical work for web-based teaching system. Another objective of virtual laboratory is to provide hands-on lab activities to enhance online courses. Study in East Carolina University find that virtual laboratory help students to understand the concept and theory of those online courses (Yang, 1999). Virtual laboratory is particular useful when some experiment involve equipment that may cause harmful effect to human beings. The laser virtual laboratory developed by the Physics Department of Dalhousie University shows how to perform real time dangerous laser laboratory with the help of commanding equipment through the Internet (Paton, 1999).
Virtual laboratory is good but much better if students can actually involve with some jobs in an environment similar to their future career (Harris & Bramhall, 1999). However, it is impossible for all students to have chance to engage with suitable companies and work for a short period of time. In this study, a multimedia scenario-based learning package, which can be accessed either in the computer or through the Internet, is prepared for a telecommunication course. This idea is similar to the integrated studies delivered by the use of 'ghost company' at Sheffield Hallam University and Glasgow Caledonian University (Robin et. al., 1992; Harris & Bramhall, 1999). The ghost company provides a framework for product development scenario which integrates the various disciplines of the course within a simulated industrial environment.
Figure 1: Scenario for working area
It will prepare students for difficulties that can occur by allowing them to perform realistic investigations at virtual site using preferred test equipment. Troubleshooting these simulated problems will result in a saving of time and money at actual site. Students can also virtually walk around and realize how the actual working environment should be. They can also take this opportunity to study how different equipment can be interconnected together and how to operate those equipment. Fig.2 shows different components of a digital clock.
Figure 2: Different components of a digital clock
Student can use this virtual environment to understand deeper about the operation and the theory behind. They can also have chance to discover the composition of any equipment or product simply by selecting the object on the screen (Fig. 3). Further explanation will be displayed in hierarchical way to suit different background of students.
Figure 3: Counter circuit in the digital clock
Another SBL package for mobile phone is shown in Fig. 4. This package simulates a mobile phone, its functional block diagram, signal flow from input to output units, and finally display all circuit diagrams. Users can easily learn the structure and concepts of mobile phone by using this SBL package.
Figure 4: SBL package for a mobile phone
All the students gave positive feedback to this SBL packages. They felt interested in learning through SBL. Another benefit was that students found it easier to learn theories through SBL.
"I like SBL because the outlook design is colorful and attractive. I especially like the use of movie to explain some difficult concepts which is hard to be understood by reading textbook."Students were encouraged to learn this subject during the process of using SBL.
"It is easier to understand how the signal change and easier to relate the input and output relationship by using the movie and animation."
"Learning by means of SBL is more interesting and attractive than learning from the book. Each web page does not have a lot of boring text. I like the hierarchical explanation using block diagram first and then detailed circuit diagram."
"This learning method is interactive and new to us. Many real life cases which are similar to our future career simulate us to explore what are the inside stories of some product."SBL also saved students a lot of time in searching related materials.
"It does not only include the theoretical concept but also how to design a practical product."
"It is attractive and my feeling is that it look like playing instead of learning. I like to learn in this way."
"It contains all the necessary information that I need. It saves me time to find reference books everywhere."However, some of the interviewees reported that SBL could only increase their practical sense but did not improve their practical skill as they did not work with the real product. SBL is not so easy to replace the hands on experiment in a laboratory.
"The simulation in SBL can improve my practical sense. However, it can only improve my practical sense but not the real practical skill as it is not a real product."Another drawback of using SBL is that it depends on student's initiative to learn. Some students can stay in front of the computer for hours but others hate to do so.
This SBL was easily accessed through Internet and learners could try it again at any time and any place. From the interview feedback, students were motivated to learn and encouraged to participate during the process of using SBL. They felt that it is close to playing a game operated in a real environment. Those SBL packages are very practical, interactive and new to them. During the learning process, students did not only obtain the theoretical concept in a hierarchical way but also knew how the practical things work. They found it easier to learn difficult concepts through the interactive movie and animation with voice explanation.
Although this SBL package has freedom to execute different courses of action, creativity that restructure the basic exercise is not encouraged. Another issue for further improvement is to include reality of function (Gredler, 1992) so that actions that participants taking at a later stage depend partly on their response of earlier actions.
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Chu, K.C., Urbanik, N., Yip, S.Y., & Cheung, T.W. (1999). The Benefit of Virtual Teaching to Engineering Education. International Journal of Engineering Education, 15(5), 334-338.
Ericksen, L, and Kim, E. (1998). Projects for the Internet. Addison-Welsey.
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Harris, R.G., and Bramhall, M.D. (1999). The development of professional skills using a product development scenario. Engineering Science and Educational Journal, Oct., 1999, pp.215-219.
Paton, B. (1999). Virtual Laser Laboratory. http://sensor.phys.dal.ca/ [verified 26 Sep 2001]
Robinson, I.M., Bramhall, M.D., Lawson, J.S. and Payne, R.N. (1992). Professional and personal skills education using a simulated engineering company. World Conference on Engineering Education, Portsmouth, Sept 1992.
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|Contact details: K. C. Chu, Department of Electrical and Communications Engineering, Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Tsing Yi), 20 Tsing Yi Road, Tsing Yi, HONG KONG|
Phone 852-2436-8657 Fax 852-2436-8643 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: Chu K. C. and Leung, D. (2001). Gaining practical skills through scenario-based learning. In L. Richardson and J. Lidstone (Eds), Flexible Learning for a Flexible Society, 148-153. Proceedings of ASET-HERDSA 2000 Conference, Toowoomba, Qld, 2-5 July 2000. ASET and HERDSA. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/aset-herdsa2000/procs/chu2.html