Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
In this paper, an assessment frequency improvement mechanism, called the Online Tutorial Room (OTR) is described. Mainly based on active and problem-based learning, the OTR makes use of the internet and modern learning management systems (such as Blackboard) to encourage today’s working engineering students to gain more problem-solving skills in a browser-friendly environment comparable to social media. The benefit of problem solving skills in improving learning has been documented in countless engineering education studies, and the relationship between the frequency of knowledge assessment and learning effectiveness has also been highlighted in recent studies. Modeled as a process in which the engineering student knowledge signal is sampled, engineering knowledge assessment is often used to evaluate learning performance. Consequently, the frequency of assessment/sampling does play a crucial role not only in validating learning evaluation but also in improving learning retention, because of the regular feedback associated with frequent assessments. This need to increase the assessment frequency has certainly been recognized by modern engineering schools. That’s why the majority of these schools adopt relatively high frequency assessment schemes with various forms of assessments ranging from formal exams to less formal homework assignments. To evaluate these assessments, engineering schools normally use the services of graduate teaching assistants who offer valuable regular feedback to students and attempt to control the level of plagiarism. However, in those engineering schools where graduate teaching assistants are scarce, and/or where the level of plagiarism is remarkably high, many instructors have played down the importance of homework assignments and have increasingly relied on the two or three formal exams administered during the semester or quarter. Such a situation obviously presents serious problems at both the learning evaluation and retention levels. Run by students for students and only monitored by the instructor, the Online Tutorial Room (OTR) is a learning environment where working students are able to practice problem-solving skills from the comfort of their homes (or work!), and at their preferred time, share their contributions with their classmates, receive timely feedback from their competent colleagues, and get credit for their validated participation, all without exhausting the time and effort of the instructor. The OTR is built around forums and threads, as well as segments of the course material, associated each with a focus problem. It is also designed around teamwork, student moderation, solution rubric, and formal rating and ranking procedures. Safeguards for possible plagiarism are also put in place. In addition, the OTR is associated with an Active Learning Performance (ALP) policy and linked to a learning competition between teams which promotes intra-team cooperation and collaboration and inter-team competition at the same time. The OTR approach has been tested for two consecutive semesters and early performance indicators (class averages, standard deviations, etc.) are signaling a promising improvement. Despite the obvious statistical limitations of the OTR testing process, and despite the fact that the assessment of the OTR postings is carried out by students for students, it is possible to claim that the OTR mechanism improves the (effective) assessment frequency and therefore enhances the standard of both learning evaluation and retention, particularly when the expected benefits of the conventional homework are difficult to achieve.
Hassoun, G. E. (2018, June), Board 105 : The Online Tutorial Room (OTR): Improving the Sampling Frequency of the Engineering Knowledge Signal! Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/29865
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