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Impact on Students

University of Iowa

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

Improved Learning

Three separate assessments were used to compare student learning outcomes in the redesigned course with those in the traditional one: common final examination questions, an American Chemical Society Examinations Institute (ACSEI) standard exam, and the Iowa Chemistry Placement Exam used as a pre- and post-test in the redesigned course.

Common final examination questions. Twenty common final examination questions were used in fall 2001 and fall 2002 (traditional and redesigned courses, respectively). Students in the redesigned course (N = 772) answered an average of 12.5 ± 3.4 (out of 20) questions correctly compared to an average of 12.6 for the students in the traditional class. Of the 20 questions, 11 showed a net gain in the percentage that was completed correctly while 9 showed a net decrease, yielding an overall conclusion of no significant difference in outcomes. One conclusion that might be drawn is that the reintegration of the laboratory portion of the course (the last aspect of the redesign implemented between the fall of 2001 and 2002) had no measurable effect on students' ability to solve traditional word problems.

ACSEI examination. A block of questions selected from an American Chemical Society Examinations Institute standard exam was administered to the redesign students on the last day of classes. The standard exam was available in two forms in which the order of the questions and the foils were different and for which students answered 25 questions (but which represented 32 different questions between the two forms). The redesign group (N = 666) shows uniform performance on both forms above the level of the comparison group with gains in 30 out of 32 questions. Of those 30 gains, 7 were less than 5%, 12 were 5-10%, and 11 were greater than 10%. On the first test form redesign students scored an average of 65.4 while traditional students scored 58.4. On the second, redesign students scored 61.0 while their traditional counterparts scored 52.4. These differences are statistically significant beyond the .0001 level.

Iowa Chemistry Placement Exam. This placement exam has been developed to help advise students about what introductory course to take. A group of 641 redesign students completed both the pre- and post-test versions of the exam. Results showed a mean score of 18.5 ± 4.6 for the pre-test while the post-test yielded a mean score of 24.7 ± 3.9, a mean difference of 6.2, which was significantly different (t = 34.9, p < 0.0001). The post-test item analysis for the redesign students (mean score 24.7) indicated that they outperformed a group of 267 students who had taken the placement exam at the beginning of the second semester course (mean score 19.2.) The redesign group outscored the second semester group on 29 of 30 items.

Improved Retention

The DFW rate went from 24.6% in the traditional format to 13.1% in the redesign. (The withdrawal rate was reduced from 8.5% to 3.9%; and the percentage of students who earned grades of D or F was reduced from 16% to 9.2%.)

Other Impacts on Students

The use of online homework also appeared to increase students' willingness to actually do the homework. In the spring of 2000 before redesign, for instance, students typically earned less than 50% of the course credit that they could have gotten by completing homework assignments. Under the fully implemented redesign in fall of 2002, students earned 80% of possible homework credits. Because performance on the homework assignments was strongly correlated with performance on the final, students who successfully complete homework assignments tended to do better. Online homework therefore seemed to help stimulate overall student performance.

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