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Impact on Students

University of Central Florida

In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared to the traditional format?

Improved Learning

A content examination on knowledge of American government was administered to students in both course formats; the exam was based on an 18-point, fact-based scale. The assessment data presented below are derived from four sections at 50% reduced seat time in fall 2000 and three sections at 50% reduced seat time in spring 2001. Students enrolled in the redesigned sections showed significantly better pre-test and post-test improvements in content knowledge on this instrument, as well as significantly better absolute post-test performances.

Format
Post-survey Mean Pre-survey Mean Mean Change
Traditional (N=52) 10.7 9.1 +1.6
Redesign (N=37) 11.3 8.4 +2.9
Total (N=89) 11.0 8.8 +2.2

Increases in political knowledge scores were evident across the board. Ignoring format differences, students averaged a 2.2 mean increase on the 18-item index. Yet the traditional students and redesign students showed notable differences in this regard. Whereas the students in the traditional-lecture format posted a 1.6-point mean improvement, the mean change for students in the redesigned course, at 2.9, was almost double that amount. As noted below, the students in the redesign were somewhat less motivated, making their learning gains even more significant.

Other Impacts on Students

When compared with their traditional counterparts, the students who selected the redesigned course had less academic experience, less previous exposure to Web-based courses, and lower levels of motivation to learn about American politics. From a methodological standpoint, these motivational and attitudinal differences suggest a conservative test for the effects of the redesign format on student outcomes. From a pedagogical standpoint, however, this result suggests that a less-prepared student audience is, at least initially, selecting environments using this new form of instruction.

Students enrolled in the redesigned sections evinced greater levels of satisfaction, particularly in areas involving student-student interaction. A pre- and post-questionnaire revealed that students evaluated the redesigned format more favorably in the helpfulness of discussions with other students, ease of contact with the instructor, and opportunities for expressing and sharing ideas. Though students’ assessments of the ease or difficulty in following and completing assignments were the same in both formats, students in the redesigned sections found course assignments to have much greater benefit for understanding course content. This large difference suggests that a key theoretical advantage of Web-enhanced instruction—bringing active learning to bear on course content—paid considerable empirical dividends. Additionally, students enrolled in the redesigned course expressed greater willingness to take another political science course employing the same format.

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