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Examining the Effectiveness of Short, Voluntary, Online Tutorials in a Large Undergraduate Class

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Innovative Approaches to Improving Student Learning

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Alison Cupples Michigan State University

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Dr. Cupples is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan State University. She obtained her PHD from Stanford University and was a Postdoctoral Fellow with the USDA. Her research focuses on the biodegradation of environmental contaminants. She was a Lilly Teaching Fellow in 2011-2012.

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The undergraduate learning experience typically includes traditional pedagogical approaches such as lectures, assigned readings and homework assignments. To expand beyond these conventional approaches, this study examined the impact of short, voluntary on-line tutorials on student performance. The study was conducted in a large (>150) undergraduate class, “Principles of Environmental Engineering and Science”, containing students (48 seniors, 65 juniors, 61 sophomores and 3 freshmen) primarily from four majors (Civil Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Applied Systems Engineering). A large class was selected for this study, as students typically receive less attention from the instructor in this setting (compared to smaller classes) and therefore learning can be more challenging.

The approach involved eighteen short (8-12 minutes long each) tutorials that were made available to the students at the start of the semester (Fall 2019). The tutorials were generated using Microsoft Powerpoint and the voice recordings were captured with a Yeti Nano microphone. The Powerpoint slides included typed text with animations, typed equations, annotations generated with a stylus pen and diagrams from the textbook or from on-line sources. The Powerpoint files were saved as MP4 files and were placed on Kaltura MediaSpace. The students were able to access a link to each video on MediaSpace by clicking on a link placed within the class file in Desire to Learn (D2L, a cloud based learning management system). Mediaspace collected data on how many views of each video occurred and D2L collected data on which students accessed the video. Unfortunately, neither software could report which students listened to the entire video.

The effectiveness of the tutorials on student learning was examined by comparing student performance in exams between the current year and a previous year without the tutorials. Grades for a group of questions from five exams were compared between years to ascertain if the availability of the tutorials impacted the grades received in the current year. This study also collected pre- and post- semester data on students’ opinions concerning video tutorials and on-line learning in general. Additionally, the students were anonymously surveyed for feedback during the semester on each tutorial using Qualtrics on-line survey software. To date, the anonymous surveys have provided positive feedback on the tutorials, although the number of completed surveys is lowered than expected. Also, approximately half of the students have at least accessed the on-line surveys. The analysis of data from the first exam indicates a statistically significant (p<0.05) increase in overall student performance. Further, students from two majors achieved significantly (p<0.05) higher grades on individual questions in the study year compared to the control year. The final analysis of the evaluation and assessment data will be performed when the semester is over (December 2019).

Cupples, A. (2020, June), Examining the Effectiveness of Short, Voluntary, Online Tutorials in a Large Undergraduate Class Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34616

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