Adapting the delivery of learning materials to student preferences: Two studies with a course model based on 'cases'

Renate Limbach, Hilda G. Weges, Martin M.A. Valcke

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    Current printed courses of the Open universiteit (Ou) have been designed according to a variety of course models; for example the ‘learning unit model’ or the ‘textbook‐workbook model’ (van den Boom & Schlusmans 1991). Considering the potential of the ILCE approach (Valcke & Martens, this issue), one can imagine new and innovative course models that build on the interactivity and flexibility possibilities of such an environment An essential feature of the ILCE approach is that developers can consider student differences when designing and producing learning materials. In this article we will explore the problem of adapting the delivery of learning materials to student characteristics in relation to a course based on ‘cases’ in the law domain. Two different study modes are researched: a study mode that starts with the theory and next moves to practical work with the cases versus a study mode that starts with the practical work and next moves to the theoretical base. Two studies are presented. Within the exploratory study, the research questions focus on the potential interrelations between student characteristics and the preference/choice for one of the two study modes. From the results can be concluded that almost all students from the Open universiteit prefer a theory‐based study mode, because they have a relatively large amount of experience with this study mode and because they find it a successful study mode. In the second study, an experimental design is adopted with students studying in one of four different conditions: two study modes of printed learning materials and two study modes of interactive learning materials. In contrast with the exploratory study students clearly indicate a more diverse preference for certain study modes. Students also differ in their preference for the delivery mode. However the more traditional study and delivery mode (theory‐based and printed learning material) remains more popular. Again this might again be due to the greater experience students have with this approach. Only two student characteristics are significantly related to opting for the practice‐based study mode: the experience level with a study mode and one's prior knowledge with the subject matter. Comparable results were detected regarding the preferred delivery mode: students with little prior knowledge more readily prefer a printed book, probably because they have a better overview.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)24-43
    JournalDistance education
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1997


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