Impact on Students
The University of Southern Mississippi
In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared to the traditional format?
Three instruments were used to assess student learning: weekly low-stake quizzes to measure reading comprehension; unit-level exams to measure critical thinking skills; and essay assignments to measure writing skills.
- In the area of reading comprehension, the number of students scoring C or better climbed from 68% in the traditional course to 88% in the redesign, owing largely to the use of mastery quizzing that allowed students to deepen their learning through the formative testing process itself.
- In the area of critical thinking skills, the number of students scoring C or better dropped from 70% in the traditional course to 41% in the redesign--an unexpected decline that a new version of the course will attempt to correct.
- In the area of writing skills, the number of students scoring C or better increased from 61% in the traditional course to 77% in the redesign. This gain was even particularly significant because of the emphasis placed on writing in the course, which accounted for 40% of the total grade.
Although results are reported in traditional “graded” terms, note that they are actually based on a consistent scoring methodology applied to the two types of courses.
Further, students made marked gains in every assessed writing skill sub-score area (thesis development, organization, style, etc.). This improvement may be traced to several factors including a) the ability to return to online faculty notes and presentations to get additional information needed to prepare essays at the moment those essays were being written, b) dramatically increased use of multimedia and web-based learning aids (half of those enrolled say they used the optional complementary resources provided) and, c) increased use of the Writing Center where students can get tutorial help while drafting their essays.
In the traditional version of the course, faculty-taught sections typically retained about 75% of their students while adjunct- and TA-taught sections retained 85%. In the most recent semester of full implementation of the redesign, retention was 87%, with all students being taught solely by faculty. At the same time, the rate of D and F grades dropped from 37% in the fall 2001 traditional course to 27% in the spring 2003 redesigned course. DFW rates dropped from 26% in the traditional course (fall 2001 baseline) to 22% in the redesign (spring 2003).
Other Impacts on Students
- Increased time-on-task through the use of repeatable, automated mastery quizzing.
- More than half of students reported using at least one-quarter of the optional resources offered, suggesting a deeper engagement with course content through technology that has given students ready access to media and web sites.
- More than half of students reported that the technological dimensions of the course had a positive impact on their learning experience, while another 37% were neutral on the technology issue.
- One-quarter of students said that the redesigned course, more than others in their college careers, caused them to join online and traditional study groups and learning communities.
- Overall student satisfaction numbers were better in the redesigned course than they were under the traditional course--slightly better in six measured areas, behind in one area (opportunities for questioning), and far ahead in two other areas (grading fairness and timely return of graded work).
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