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Number 6 (3/2001)

Research Methods Web Resource in Testing

Tuomas J. Alaterä

Research methods web resource (MOTV in Finnish) is a new kind of environment for teaching and learning quantitative research methods of the social and behavioural sciences. It includes a method section in hypertext format, an integrated SPSS learning environment, and an abundance of learning material applicable to various teaching equipment and spaces. FSD is in charge of planning, maintaining and developing the project.

MOTV in FinnishMOTV is an open learning environment and accessible to all. Although it is primarily designed for social science disciplines, one of the dominant criteria when creating the exercises has been their versatility. The resource can thus be used in various fields. MOTV does not require former knowledge of quantitative methods.

The resource is of use to diverse target groups: Firstly, there are the students who either participate in methodology courses, or who need practice in quantitative methods either for research or professional purposes. Teachers form another user group: the texts, exercises and ready-to-use overhead projector sheets can be used as additional material on method courses. Thirdly, researchers whose own work has not equipped them with enough knowledge of quantitative methods may find the resource useful.

Mikko MattilaMOTV is published in Finnish. Dr. Pol. Sc. Mikko Mattila, whose handiwork much of the site's methods texts are, says this is important: Finnish students must be able to study quantitative methods in their own language. Although there are hundreds of books available on the subject, only a few of them are in Finnish.

MOTV offers indisputable advantages

Several Finnish universities have courses on research methods, the contents of which are relatively similar. MOTV as such does not offer anything revolutionary for students who already have basic social science education. However, a web-based learning environment does offer brand-new means for teaching and learning research methods.

MOTV can be constantly expanded and updated. It is easily accessible and therefore ideal also for self-studying - as long as the student has an access to a computer and the Internet, preferably also to a suitable statistical software. From the self-studier's point of view, MOTV's versatility is its greatest asset: methodology texts, SPSS guidance and exercises are all included. The exercises are based on extensive, genuine research materials stored at FSD.

MOTV eases libraries' pressures to purchase large amounts of printed books to be used in methodology courses. Mattila does, however, emphasise that MOTV is not intended to replace the existing Finnish textbooks that are regarded as both diverse and of a high level. Instead, it compliments the existing supply by exploiting the new possibilities provided by the Internet.

MOTV expands and deepens

The large scale testing of MOTV begins in the spring of 2002. Although the material already available on the net still requires a lot of development, future prospects are already considered. Perhaps one day MOTV will cover also the qualitative methods. But first FSD concentrates on completing the quantitative side by expanding and deepening it. One future prospect is to integrate to the resource a so-called teachers' forum where educators can share their know-how and exchange views.

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