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The Spiral Curriculum: implications for online learning

DOI: 10.1186/1472-6920-7-52

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At the University of Cape Town, medical students' last date of access to 16 previous online courses was determined. Students completed a survey to determine their reasons for revisiting this material and the perceived benefits of this availability.70% of the students revisited their previous online courses. The major reasons were to review lecture presentations, lectures notes, and quizzes. The perceived benefits were for understanding new material, preparation for assessments, and convenience.Although student comments were not always in line with the concept of the spiral curriculum, most referred to processes of building on previous work, and some mentioned the spiral curriculum specifically.This study suggests that the practice of replacing previous online courses may hinder rather than support student learning. Although students visit previous material for ranges of reasons, a large number are aware of the spiral curriculum, and use the online environment to build upon previous material. Any practice, which entails replacing material and redesigning curricula content may be detrimental to the students' future learning needs, and such activities may need revision.Electronic systems, also called Online Learning Management Systems (LMSs) or Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), are used in higher education institutions to support face-to-face learning in a range of disciplines, including medicine [1,2]. They are also used to support "extra" student learning by providing an electronic resource area, and through organised course structures, such as cases, tutorials, modules, and student-years [3,4].Understanding and maintaining the relationship between the face-to-face curriculum and the operation of the LMS is crucial; the face-to-face curriculum sets the agenda, teaching philosophy, and organisational structure, whilst the LMS is designed to support, expand and facilitate. Problems arise when common practices in LMS implementation hinder rather than support the fac


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