MyAccountingLab educator study measures quiz and exam grades at Harford Community College

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MyAccountingLab educator study measures quiz and exam grades at Harford Community College

Key Findings

  • Data for this course show a very strong positive correlation between MyAccountingLab assignment grades and MyAccountingLab quiz grades, as well as MyAccountingLab quiz grades and exam grades.
  • Students earning an average exam grade of A, B, or C had MyAccountingLab scores 31 percentage points higher than students who earned a D or F as their average exam grade.
  • The use of Email by Criteria in MyAccountingLab enables Baker to provide every student with critical intervention and personalized feedback regarding their results and progress.

School name
Harford Community College, Bel Air, MD

Course name
Accounting Principles I

Course format
Online and lecture

Course materials
MyAccountingLab®; Horngren’s Accounting by Miller-Nobles, Mattison, and Matsumura

Timeframe
Fall 2014–fall 2015

Submitted by
LJ Baker, Assistant Professor

Setting

  • Locale: two-year, suburban, public institution located in northeast Maryland
  • Enrollment: more than 9,000 for-credit students, more than 11,000 non-credit students
  • Full-time: 18 percent
  • First-time: 26 percent
  • Average age: 25
  • Gender: 59 percent female
  • Ethnicity/race: 27.5 percent identify as minority

About the Course

Assistant professor L.J. Baker has been teaching full-time for 10 years at Harford Community College where he has been teaching the Accounting Principles course. Accounting Principles is a one-semester, three-credit course which is part of a two-semester sequence, enrolling approximately 375 students per year, both online and face-to-face. It is required of all business administration majors. The course is an introduction to accounting theory and practice with an emphasis on accounting for assets. The complete accounting cycle is presented and end-of-period financial reports are prepared. Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • apply basic financial, managerial, cost and tax accounting principles;
  • develop and employ problem-solving skills related to accounting issues;
  • analyze and discuss transactions and related financial statements; and
  • recognize ethical accounting behavior.

Challenges and Goals

Baker believes accounting is mastered by repetitive working of homework problems, but teaching large sections without graduate assistants did not allow him to monitor, collect, and grade homework. In 2009, he sought a digital course companion that would require students to complete homework assignments weekly, but that would also grade the homework for them. The immediate feedback and learning aids in MyAccountingLab were advantages that made the program even more uniquely qualified to help his students while they were practicing and completing homework assignments. Baker adopted MyAccountingLab as a course component beginning in fall 2009.

Implementation

MyAccountingLab is required; the program is used predominantly by students at home on a personal computer. Students use MyAccountingLab for practice and homework assignments as well as quizzes. Baker’s goals for assigning work in MyAccountingLab are to get students to read the textbook, practice problems that address key Accounting concepts, and help students assess their own understanding of the course material and track their progress. As the course instructor, Baker’s role is to assign content, homework, and assessments in MyAccountingLab, introduce new content in lecture, and provide support and remote monitoring to students taking the course online.

Baker urges his students to read the appropriate textbook chapters before attending class, paying particular attention to illustrations and demonstration problems. He finds that the most effective use of classroom time aims at reinforcing and clarifying what students have attempted to learn first on an individual basis. Due to the volume of material that must be covered, it is impossible to lecture on all the content presented in the textbook in just one semester. For this reason, lecture covers the most important points in each chapter, and students are responsible individually for questioning that content which they don’t understand. After new content is covered, students will work in pairs with iPads received through a grant, completing the Dynamic Study Modules in MyAccountingLab. Their responses to these questions help Baker identify what content students understand completely and what topics he may need to refocus on.

Students are expected to spend at least 3 hours per week working in MyAccountingLab. Baker’s students confirmed this on a fall 2015 voluntary, end-of-semester survey (27 percent response rate)52 percent of students said they spent 2–4 hours per week working in MyAccountingLab and an additional 14 percent of students said they spent more than four hours working in the program.

Students are assigned end-of-chapter homework problems in MyAccountingLab; approximately one textbook chapter is covered each week with a companion homework assignment. Baker creates a weekly assignment that consists of short exercises, more complex exercises, and longer, multi-step problems. Only the multi-step problems are required and graded, while the exercises are recommended and then usually reviewed in lecture. Three required comprehensive problems are assigned each week and are due prior to the exam day. Students are given three attempts at each homework problem and all learning aids are turned on. Learning aids provide tutorial help at the point-of-use; students on the end of semester survey frequently commented on the importance of the learning aids: “I liked the ‘Help Me Solve This’ feature that provided me with practical examples to follow in order to solve the problems.”

Quizzes in MyAccountingLab are assigned after each chapter. They consist of multiple choice, fill in the blank, and short answer questions, and cover accounting concepts. Students have just one attempt at quiz completion and have two minutes per question before the quiz times out. The lowest quiz grade is dropped when recording the final grade. For lecture sections, exams are given every two chapters; they are paper and pencil and consist of five major problems. Students have 60 minutes for completion. The exam problems for online sections are a little more challenging because students have access to their textbook and notes, and cover three to four chapters per exam.

Two group projects complete the student’s grade. One project is an application of basic accounting principles from the first five chapters of the textbook; students are tasked with writing a professional business communication explaining the financial position of a real company. This project models a real-world accounting department where different group members have different responsibilities. The second group project is an annual report project, where students work in pairs to evaluate a company based on the various financial ratios they have learned about during the semester.

Student Intervention Strategies

Believing that immediate and impactful intervention will help him retain and encourage students throughout the semester, Baker follows a Pearson best practice of using a key intervention strategy built into MyAccountingLab. He believes the key to effective intervention is targeted, timely communication with students, providing important feedback at critical points during the semester. Email by Criteria is an efficient way for Baker to reach all students in his classes, whether he is teaching one section or several sections. It works by allowing him to create groups of students and emailing them as a whole, but with the benefit that each email appears personal and directed to the specific student. The personalized nature of the contact leaves a very favorable impression on students, and is especially meaningful for a student at risk and in need of intervention. For example, after the first exam, Baker contacts all students who scored poorly, identifying resources available to them for support and encouraging them to take action before the next exam. Baker recognizes that prompt guidance and feedback is a powerful method of keeping students engaged and committed to learning.

Assessments

Face-to-face sections:

  • 43%     Exams (five)
  • 29%     Group Projects (two)
  • 14%     MyAccountingLab homework assignments (10)
  • 14%     MyAccountingLab quizzes (10)

Results and Data

Figures 1 and 2 are correlation graphs; correlations do not imply causation but instead measure the strength of a relationship between two variables, where r is the correlation coefficient. The closer the r value is to 1.0, the stronger the correlation. The corresponding p-value measures the statistical significance/strength of this evidence (the correlation), where a p-value <.01 shows the existence of a positive correlation between these two variables.

  • A very strong positive correlation exists between average MyAccountingLab homework grades and average MyAccountingLab quiz grades, where r=.75 and p<.01.
  • A very strong positive correlation exists between average MyAccountingLab quiz grades and average exam grades, where r=.68 and p<.01.

For students, the formative MyAccountingLab homework assignments are intended to help them identify where they are in terms of successfully completing the summative quizzes and exams; it appears that performance on these assignments could be a leading indicator of course success (additional research is needed to develop and test this concept further). As a best practice, MyAccountingLab homework grades are intended to help Baker identify students early on who are struggling and might be at risk of poor overall course performance.

Figure 3 looks at MyAccountingLab homework completion rates which were analyzed to determine if a relationship exists between assignment completion and average exam grades. Students were placed into two groups based on the average number of MyAccountingLab assignments they completed; students who skipped one or fewer MyAccountingLab homework assignments earned higher average exam grades than students who skipped two or more assignments.

  • Average number of assignments skipped: 1.2
  • Students who skipped one or fewer MyAccountingLab assignments had an average exam grade 15 percentage points higher than students who skipped two or more assignments.
  • 65 percent of students completed all MyAccountingLab homework assignments.

Grade distribution data in terms of course success (students earning an A, B, or C) show that students who earned higher MyAccountingLab homework scores also earned higher average exam scores (Figure 4).

  • Students who earned A, B, or C average exam grades had average MyAccountingLab homework grades 31 percentage points higher than students who earned D or F exam averages.
  • Students earning an average exam grade of A scored an average of 95 percent on the MyAccountingLab homework assignments.
  • Students earning an average exam grade of F scored an average of 53 percent on the MyAccountingLab homework assignments.

Figure 5 examines the difference in assessment scores between Baker’s face-to-face and online sections. The overall course assessment differed slightly between the groups of students, with MyAccountingLab homework assignments representing 27 percent of the final grade and group projects representing 13 percent of the final grade in his online sections. Baker believes that students in his online sections are often highly motivated to succeed, which may account for some of the grade differential. He also reminds that students in online sections have access to their notes and textbook during assessments, which may lead to higher assessment scores as well.

This analysis does not include students who did not officially withdraw, but who stopped working midway through the course; these students completed fewer than three exams and/or fewer than five quizzes (n=7 students in the face-to-face sections and n=11 students in the online sections).

Correlation between average MyAccountingLab homework grade and average quiz grade

MyAccountingLab_LJBaker_Figure1

Figure 1. Correlation Between Average MyAccountingLab Homework Grade and Average Quiz Grade, Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 (n=78)

Correlation between average MyAccountingLab quiz score and average exam score

MyAccountingLab_LJBaker_Figure2

Figure 2. Correlation Between Average MyAccountingLab Quiz Score and Average Exam Score, Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 (n=78)

Relationship between MyAccountingLab homework completion and average exam grades

MyAccountingLab_LJBaker_Figure3

Figure 3. Relationship Between MyAccountingLab Homework Completion and Average Exam Grades, Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 (n=78)

Relationship between average MyAccountingLab homework score and average MyAccountingLab exam scores

MyAccountingLab_LJBaker_Figure4

Figure 4. Relationship Between Average MyAccountingLab Homework Score and Average MyAccountingLab Exam Scores, Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 (n=78)

Grade comparison of face-to-face sections and online sections

MyAccountingLab_LJBaker_Figure5

Figure 5. Grade Comparison of Face-to-Face Sections and Online Sections, Fall 2014 and Fall 2015, (Face-to-Face: n=78, Online: n=36)

The Student Experience

Responses from a fall 2015 end-of-semester, voluntary survey of Baker’s students (27 percent response rate) indicate that the majority of responding students recognize the value of MyAccountingLab.

  • 95 percent of students agree or strongly agree that their understanding of the course material increased as a result of using MyAccountingLab.
  • 90 percent of students agree or strongly agree that the use of MyAccountingLab positively impacted their quiz and exam scores.
  • 81 percent of students agree or strongly agree that MyAccountingLab provided additional resources that helped them learn more than they would have from more traditional pencil and paper homework.
  • 95 percent of students agree or strongly agree that they would recommend MyAccountingLab to another student taking this course.

Student survey responses to the question, “What did you like most about MyAccountingLab?” include:

  • “Help Me Solve This – it provided direction in a different ‘voice’ and manner.”
  • “I liked how MyAccountingLab gave you feedback about anything you did wrong.”
  • “When doing the homework I am actually able to see if my answers are correct and work to improve my scores. Also, my teacher is able to tell us what examples from the book we should study for our tests, I am able to print out the recommended homework examples that are similar and complete them by hand, then enter my answers into the system to see what I did wrong and right: that was by far the best exam-study strategy for me and I expect to complete the course with an A.”
  • “I liked the way the material on quizzes, homework, and tests reflected what was taught in the book very closely, which helped me understand the concepts I read about by actually putting them to practice.”
  • “The learning aids while doing the homework allowed you to understand how things were done if you got the answer wrong.”

Conclusion

Data for Baker’s course show that students earning higher scores on the MyAccountingLab homework assignments also had higher quiz and exam scores. The data suggests having frequent short exercises that are replicated in lecture, followed up by higher-stakes multi-part problems that are required and graded, has created an environment for both Baker’s face-to-face and online sections that is leading to success. Students are able to identify their errors quickly and make necessary corrections before taking the summative quizzes and exams. The ability to identify, revise, and understand the reason behind their errors was referenced by students frequently on the end-of-semester survey, “I really liked when I got an answer wrong the program would let me know immediately and it let me know what I did wrong.” In addition, Baker’s use of Email by Criteria to quickly identify at-risk students allows him to provide a more successful Accounting Principles experience for his students.

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