Researching haptics in higher education: The complexity of developing haptics virtual learning systems and evaluating its impact on students' learning

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hapTEL, an interdisciplinary project funded by two UK research councils from 2007 to 2011, involves a large interdisciplinary team (with undergraduate and post-graduate student participants) which has been developing and evaluating a virtual learning system within an HE healthcare education setting, working on three overlapping strands. Strand 1 involves the technical development and evaluation of the hapTEL workstation which simulates clinical conditions for dental training including haptics (sense of touch). Strand 2 involves examining the traditional undergraduate curriculum and how this could benefit from the use of haptics. Strand 3 is concerned with the educational evaluation of the impact of the work carried out within Strands 1 and 2. Two theoretical frameworks (Entwistle, (1987) and Webb and Cox (2004)) have been used to identify as many factors as possible which could affect the impact of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) on the quality of the learning achieved. These frameworks have formed a foundation for measuring the impact of TEL on curriculum change, teachers' pedagogical practices, students' learning and on institutional practices. A range of quantitative and qualitative methods were designed, piloted and evaluated in order to measure the impact of TEL on teaching and learning; and to have a rich and robust data set which also addresses the variables in the frameworks. The results from using these frameworks show that institutional and departmental factors should be considered when evaluating the impact of TEL in higher education and that these had a major influence on the design and curriculum integration of the hapTEL systems. We have also shown that by involving the end users from the beginning enabled not only an enhancement of the students' learning experiences but also a modification to the traditional curriculum itself and the successful integration of TEL within a very traditional undergraduate higher education dental curriculum. The conclusions from this paper confirm earlier reviews of researching TEL that technology integration is extremely complex and the related research requires a comprehensive approach of both quantitative and qualitative methods if one is to take account of the range of variables identified by theoretical frameworks. Finally, repeating the range of empirical investigations for a second year enables researchers to validate the effectiveness of the methods used in the initial year and thereby maximise the reliability and generalisability of the research outcomes. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156 - 166
Number of pages11
JournalComputers & Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012
EventCAL Conference - Manchester, ENGLAND
Duration: 1 Apr 2011 → …


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