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A group-learning approach to academic and transferable skills through an exercise in the global positioning system

Partners' Institution
Limerick Institute of Technology
A group-learning approach to academic and transferable skills through an exercise in the global positioning system
Thematic Area
Environmental studies
An undergraduate tutorial project, based on the utility and application of the global positioning system (GPS) to geographical problems, offers the potential to develop a wide range of academic and transferable skills. A broad understanding of the accuracy, precision and limitations of GPS to geographical issues is provided. This knowledge is developed though a small-group exercise, encompassing skills such as teamwork, project formulation and design, local fieldwork and literature searches. Additionally, the exercise may act as a valuable precursor to a more successful undergraduate research project, since the constraints imposed by such a venture, from conception to conclusion, have been experienced, and the need for flexibility identified.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
This paper discusses a teamwork project used in the Level 2 undergraduate tutorial module in the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences (IGES), University of Wales, Aberystwyth, which develops key skills and provides undergraduate students with a better com prehension of the `reality’ of independent research.
The research evaluates the success of a practical application of a group project and the overall benefits analysis.
Responsibility is assigned to the student at the inception of the project, since project formulation, preparation and planning are implemented through direct student participation rather than being based on information provided by the tutor, this allows less reliance on the tutor while increasing student participation. The researcher highlights that fieldwork is usually undertaken within an environmental/geography degree, but notes that the utilisation of local (within walking distance) field work is extremely valuable as it provides experience without any added transport/accommodation costs.
Utilising a skills based exercise that involves independent research being developed by the students highlights the role in which students can play within their own education. This can in turn then act as a forerunner to additional and more successful research projects as any limitations to individual/group research have already been identified.
Point of Strength
Developing the skills needed for exploitation within a course can be done not just in the lecture-led scenario but can be heightened by self-ownership of the work that needs to be completed.
Overall the paper highlights how self-led independent research leads to a problem-solving, hypothesis-testing, analytical skills and active participation in the learning process.