2007 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., April 24, 2007
HUB West Ballroom

Session Description


Incorporating on-line activities and group work to enhance student learning and in class participation

Peter Mackenzie and Greg Miller - Civil and Environmental Engineering


The College of Engineering offers a series of courses at the sophomore level. These courses are offered during most quarters, and they are almost always attended by a very large class. Students take these courses as prerequisite for various engineering departments, a fact which makes them very competitive.

The traditional way of lecture, lab, and written homework was the common way how these courses are taught until recently. Under this model, it was very common to observe a bi-model distribution of grades for midterms and the final exam. Finding the source of this separation into a stronger and a weaker group of students was the initial question in addressing the issue. Surveying members of the weak group revealed problems with self assessment ahead of the (first) exam, a lack of practice work, and insufficient feedback.

The proposed solution was adding a series of on-line activities to enhance participation in and effectiveness of the lectures. These consist of reading assignments with linked pre-lecture on-line quizzing with automated feedback, on-line submission of homework results, instant automated grading and feedback, and the option to improve and resubmit homework solutions.

These modifications were first established in Winter 2005 and observed by the Office of Educational Assessment. The focus was both on objective effectiveness and subjective in-class experience of students, TAs, and instructor. A series of surveys throughout the quarter and statistical analyses of subsequent courses showed improved performance of the weaker group, resulting in a uni-modal distribution of grades. An overall improvement of grades was of no statistical significance. The subjective experience, however, improved for all involved groups.




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