News #6 | May/June 2009
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Initiation Course in SPSS at the FMUL - An experience in Blended Learning
Initiation Course in SPSS at the FMUL - An experience in Blended Learning
Sofia Cruz
Learning through Electronic Means Support Group (GAAME)

Sónia Godinho Barroso
Support for Scientific, Technological and Innovation Research Office (GAPIC)

Last March, in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon (FMUL), an Initiation Course into SPSS was held, lectured in a system of blended learning, including two components: virtual and attended.

The initiative started out at the Support for Scientific, Technological and Innovation Research Office (GAPIC), given that in the area of health statistics is a fundamental tool for organising, presenting, analysing and interpreting data, although a large number of the students, researchers and health professionals have some reluctance in relation to this field of knowledge. Aware of the importance of statistics, particularly in the field of scientific research, and to some extent to meet some needs, GAPIC organised this course taking advantage of the specific training of the assessor and secretary of this office, Sónia Barroso, Masters in Statistic and Information Management, with the support of Sofia Cruz, from the Learning through Electronic Means Support Group (GAAME), currently taking the Masters in E-Learning Systems Management.

Besides showing the potential of statistics in the area of health, the course sought to familiarise its students with the terminology of statistical theory and grant them general knowledge for an adequate application to practice, using the SPSS as a support. On the pedagogical level the course also intended to encourage self-learning and collaborative work, essential skills in today’s information and knowledge society.

Seventeen students participated in the course, 9 women and 8 men, with an average age of 28. In relation to their academic situation, 7 students are attending the Integrated Masters Course in Medicine, 6 have already completed the First Degree in Medicine, 3 are attending a Masters course and one is doing a PhD.

Out of those enrolled, 9 had already participated in the “Education through Science” programme, given by the GAPIC, which aims at stimulating the practice of scientific research by undergraduate students, allowing them to participate directly in the drawing up and carrying out of research programmes, integrated within a research team from an FMUL unit under the guidance of a tutor.

Evaluation of Quality of the Course
Graph 1 – Evaluation of the Quality of the Course (n = 14)

Fourteen students filled in the questionnaire about the quality of the course. In general the quality of the course was considered by them to be good, namely the programme (10 students), the contents (10 students) and the e-learning component (8 students). However, it should be pointed out that for six of the participants the teacher’s performance, the attended session and the organisation and logistics were seen as very good. 

Degree of Satisfaction with using Moodle
Graph 2 – Degree of Satisfaction with using Moodle

In the e-learning component the support tool used was Moodle, which, with an intuitive interface, allows one to work in groups, have access to content and to send documents in a programmed manner. The participants were satisfied about using this tool (9 students).

Evaluation of Activities and Tools
Graph 3 – Evaluation of Activities and Tools

In relation to the activities provided by the course and the respective tools used, the promoting of self-learning was considered very important (9 students) as was collaborative and team work (7 students). Also considered relevant was the use of debate forums, allowing the sharing of information, ideas and experiences in asynchrony (8 students); chat-rooms, a tool that allows instant exchange of text messages (7 students) and research work (7 students). In its turn, Wiki, a tool that allows the publishing of a same document by several users at the same time was considered not very important (7 students).

In the participants’ opinion there was an evolution of their knowledge about statistics and the SPSS through attending this course, with this evolution being significant in relation to using the SPSS and the application of the theoretical knowledge using this statistics programme (Table I – Comparison of the Level of Knowledge in Statistics and SPSS at the Beginning and End of the Course).

After the course was evaluated by the students it was concluded that the aims had been achieved, the students had acquired general knowledge about statistics and how to adequately put them into practice using the SPSS as a support. The Initiation Course to SPSS in blended learning was thus a positive initiative and an experience to be repeated in the future.

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Prof. Doutor J. Fernandes e Fernandes
Editorial Commitee: Prof. Doutor J. Fernandes e Fernandes, Prof. Doutor Alexandre Ribeiro, Prof. Doutor António Vaz Carneiro, Prof. Doutor João Ferreira, Dr. Luis Pereira
Information Officer: Ana Raquel Moreira
Editorial Team: Ana Maria Silva, Ana Raquel Moreira, André Silva, Lara Ponte, Miguel Andrade, Rui Gomes, Sónia Barroso, Susana Henriques, Tânia Simões
Collaboration: Communication and Image Office - Ana Isabel Gonçalves da Silva, Bruno Moura
Design and Technical Support: UTI 
Design and development: Spirituc