MyBCommLab educator study analyzes homework, quiz and writing assignment scores at Mesa Community College

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MyBCommLab educator study analyzes homework, quiz and writing assignment scores at Mesa Community College

Key Findings

  • Data for this course show a very strong positive correlation between average MyBCommLab assignment grades and average MyBCommLab Writing Space assignment grades.
  • Data indicate that students who earned higher average quiz scores, showing mastery of course material by earning an A,B, or C average, had average MyBCommLab scores 13 percentage points higher than students who earned a D or F as an average quiz grade.
  • The use of computer-assisted grading for the Writing Space written assignments in MyBCommLab allowed for a fair and reasonable grading structure for students and freed up the instructor’s time for other course preparations.

School name
Mesa Community College, Mesa, AZ

Course name
Business Communication

Course format
Online

Course materials
MyBCommLab®; Excellence in Business Communication, by Thill and Bovee

Timeframe
Fall 2015

Submitted by
Lo-An Tabar-Gaul, Professor, Business Information Systems with the support of Candace Cooney, Customer Outcomes Analytics Manager, Pearson

Setting

  • Locale: two-year, urban, public institution located outside of Phoenix; largest of the ten community colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District, which is the largest community college district in the United States in terms of enrollment.
  • Enrollment: over 21,000 students
  • Full-time: 31 percent
  • Four-year college transfer: 42 percent
  • Day class attendance: 57 percent
  • Mixed attendance: 23 percent
  • First-time, full-time: 34 percent
  • Average age: 25
  • Ethnicity/Race: 48 percent minority

About the Course

Professor Lo-An Tabar-Gaul has been teaching full-time for 28 years at MCC where she has been teaching the Business Communications course for three years (www.linkedin.com/in/tabargaul).  She has been involved in Quality Matters (QM), a non-profit organization that certifies online and blended courses for colleges internationally (https://www.qualitymatters.org/) where she has been serving as a Certified Master Reviewer for the past several years.

Business Communication is a one-semester, three-credit course enrolling approximately 100 students each semester, both online and face-to-face. It is required for an associate degree in business or management and is also an elective for other majors. The course is intended to enhance students’ ability to write and communicate electronically and verbally in a professional environment; it does not teach methods of common English writing as it assumes students are already familiar with report and letter writing for formal English communications. Course competencies include:

  • Identifying general characteristics of language and meaning
  • Identifying ways of producing messages and evaluating their success
  • Writing coherent sentences and paragraphs, using fundamental writing techniques for electronic mail, business letters and business memos
  • Composing reports and preparing visual aids for business situations, including oral reporting

Challenges and Goals

In 2013, Tabar-Gaul was tasked with building an online course for the Business Communication course around the core course competencies. She hoped to find an existing program with interactive activities that would match their educational goals, where the material would be presented in a variety of ways to accommodate the different learning styles of online learners. She reviewed MyBCommLab and noted immediately that while it was rich with interactive activities, it was also user-friendly enough for her to learn on her own and also had the backing of advanced technical support with Pearson. An additional advantage was the ability for other instructors to copy and modify a course that she created; Tabar-Gaul adopted MyBCommLab for her fall 2013 classes.

Implementation

MyBCommLab is required; the program is used by students at home on a personal computer. Students use MyBCommLab for learning new concepts, homework assignments, quizzes, and writing assignments. Tabar-Gaul’s goals for assigning work in MyBCommLab are to get students to read the textbook and use the various multimedia assets available to them, practice key concepts, as well as to help students assess their own understanding of the course material and track their progress. As the course instructor, Tabar-Gaul’s role is to assign content, homework, and assessments in MyBCommLab, offer remote monitoring and support, and provide additional grading of writing assignments.

Student activity in Tabar-Gaul’s online course follows a structured weekly format, covering one to two chapters per week. Active learning activities assigned include:

  • Reading the appropriate textbook chapters and viewing the PowerPoint notes in Canvas
  • Completing a discussion board post related to the chapter content in Canvas
  • Logging into MyBCommLab for completion of several homework assignments
  • Taking the MyBCommLab chapter review quiz

Tabar-Gaul expects her students will spend at least 1.5​​–2 hours per week working in MyBCommLab, and another 30 minutes working through course content and discussion assignments in Canvas. Her students confirmed this on a fall 2015 voluntary, end-of-semester survey (100 percent response rate)28 percent of students spent one to two hours per week working in MyBCommLab, 39 percent of students spent two to three hours per week working in MyBCommLab and 33 percent of students spent more than three hours per week working in MyBCommLab.

After completing the chapter reading assignment and discussion board posting, students begin their MyBCommLab assignments:

  • Decision-making simulation exercises put students in the role of manager as they make a series of decisions based on a realistic business challenge; the 5-question simulations change and branch based on the students’ decisions, creating various scenario paths. Students have eight simulation assignments worth 5​​–10 points each.
  • Video exercises explore a variety of business topics related to the theory students are learning; a 5-question quiz requiring critical thinking and decision-making follows the video. Students have 10 Video Exercises worth five points each.
  • The chapter review quiz is a 15-question, multiple choice/true-false quiz that Tabar-Gaul creates using the Pearson test bank. The quiz is timed to 60 minutes and students have three attempts at completion. Approximately 100 questions per chapter are pooled and randomized, creating a challenging assessment; however, multiple attempts allow for success, which is Tabar-Gaul’s intention. Students complete 16 chapter review quizzes worth 15 points each. Additionally, Tabar-Gaul chooses questions that meet AACSB standards and tie back to her course competency goals and learning objectives.

Writing Space
Midway through the course, Tabar-Gaul incorporates Writing Space assignments for chapters 8​​–10 of MyBCommLab to provide her students with an opportunity for professional communication. These written assignments help her assess concept mastery and critical thinking with the benefit of less time spent hand-grading. Tabar-Gaul uses the automatic-grading option where MyBCommLab auto-grades the initial student submission based on a five-point rubric. The rubric gives students a structure around which to create their writing assignments and helps keep them focused on creating a properly organized and professional communication. Additionally, the integration with Turnitin® allows Writing Space to check students’ work for improper citation or plagiarism.

Students scoring less than 80 percent on the initial computer-graded submission must complete revisions based on the computer feedback and resubmit for scoring. Students scoring over 80 percent have their grade recorded as the final written assignment score in the gradebook. Tabar-Gaul does, however, review each submission and can insert comments on her students’ writing in MyBCommLab; at that point, she may adjust the grade, if necessary. Because the computer does not grade for content, Tabar-Gaul uses this opportunity to provide appropriate personal feedback.

Initially, students were understandably concerned about the concept of computer grading for their written assignments, and often shared their anxiety on the discussion boards. However, Tabar-Gaul now explains the grading process and her involvement, and also shares examples of acceptable writing so there is less apprehension about the grading policy. Students on the end-of-semester survey were asked about the auto-graded assignments:

  • 56 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that they were initially uncomfortable with the idea of having a computer grade their writing assignments.
  • 100 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that they followed the MyBCommLab 5-point rubric (Development of Ideas, Organization, Convention, Voice, and Coherence) when writing the first draft of their assignments.
  • 83 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that the Writing Space assignments provided them with an opportunity to improve their writing skills.
  • 100 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that looking back on the computer grading of their writing assignments, they believe it was fair and reasonable.

For more information on how to use automatic-grading for written assignments, see Writing Space for MyBCommLab.

Tabar-Gaul creates her course to meet the standards of Quality Matters, a peer-review process that is designed to certify the quality of online courses. While she has not submitted her course for review, she follows their Quality Matters Higher Education rubric, a set of eight general standards and 43 specific review standards used for course evaluation.

Employability/21st Century Skills
Tabar-Gaul’s use of simulation and video learning in MyBCommLab is helping to arm her students with 21st century employability skills. There is a growing body of knowledge about what soft skills are needed to open up work opportunities for college graduates today, but these skills themselves can be a challenge for students to develop. The majority of hiring managers place the greatest value on proficiency in these soft skills, however, less than 38 percent of employers say college graduates are prepared in these skill areas/learning outcomes. The MyBCommLab framework, which includes simulation, video decision making, and written communication, moves away from memorization and content definition and is instead organized to help learners understand, identify, and develop these core soft skills:

  • Communication
  • Decision-making
  • Problem-solving and analytical skills
  • Knowledge application

Learning Management System (LMS) Integration
Tabar-Gaul was intrigued by the ability to integrate MyBCommLab with Canvas, the LMS system used at MCC, especially the seamless integration of the gradebooks. Ultimately, she opted to integrate her course for the following reasons:

  • Grade transfer–grades are easily transferable from MyBCommLab to Canvas and there is one single gradebook for the course
  • Single sign-on–students are ready to work in MyBComm on the first day of class
  • Content linking–ability to link to MyBCommLab directly from Canvas

The availability of grade syncing made the decision to integrate MyBCommLab and Canvas quite simple. Additionally, students now have just one access code and a single sign-in process instead of the need to log in to Canvas, followed by a separate log in to MyBCommLab. Easy access to MyBCommLab is important, particularly for remote online students; anything that minimizes potential start-up issues early in the semester is appreciated. As one student on the end-of-semester survey said, “I liked that it was easy to get to my assignments.” The single sign-in has resulted in a simple way for students to begin their work in MyBCommLab:

  • 89 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that they were able to access MyBCommLab through Canvas and appreciated not needing a second, separate login for MyBCommLab.
  • 78 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that the sign in and registration process for MyBCommLab was simple and fast through Canvas.

Assessments

  • 33% MyBCommLab writing assignments
  • 30% Discussion Board assignments
  • 26% MyBCommLab quizzes
  • 11% MyBCommLab assignments – simulation and video exercises

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. The simulation and video exercises comprise the MyBCommLab assignment score:

  • A very strong positive correlation exists between average MyBCommLab assignment grades and the average quiz grade, where r=.77 and p<.01.
  • A strong positive correlation exists between average MyBCommLab assignment grades and the final course grade, where r=.56 and p<.01. It should be noted that the MyBCommLab scores are 11 percent of the final course grade, influencing this relationship.

For students, the formative MyBCommLab assignment grades are intended to help them identify where they are in terms of successfully completing the more summative writing assignments; 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, MyBCommLab assignment grades are intended to help Tabar-Gaul identify students early on who are struggling and might be at risk of poor overall course performance.

Figure 3 looks at MyBCommLab completion rates which were analyzed to determine if a relationship exists between assignment completion and both average quiz grades and final course grades. Students were placed into two groups based on the average number of MyBCommLab assignments they completed; students who completed all MyBCommLab assignments earned higher average quiz and final course grades than students who skipped at least one assignment:

  • Average number of assignments skipped: one
  • Students who completed all MyBCommLab assignments had an average quiz grade 24 percentage points higher than students who skipped at least one assignment.
  • Students who completed all MyBCommLab assignments had a final course grade 20 percentage points higher than students who skipped at least one assignment.
  • 77 percent of students completed all MyBCommLab assignments.

Figure 4 presents the relationship between the average quiz letter grade distribution per average MyBCommLab assignment score. Students showing mastery of course content by earning an A, B, or C for their average quiz grade had average MyBCommLab assignments scores 13 percentage points higher than students who scored a D/F quiz average:

  • Students earning an average quiz grade of A scored an average of 97 percent on the MyBCommLab assignments.
  • Students scoring an average quiz grade of F scored an average of 70 percent on the MyBCommLab assignments.

Correlation between average MyBCommLab assignment grade and average quiz grade

MyBCommLab_MesaCC_Figure1

Figure 1. Correlation Between Average MyBCommLab Assignment Grade and Average Quiz Grade, Fall 2015 (n=18)

Correlation between average MyBCommLab assignment grade and final course grade

MyBCommLab_MesaCC_Figure2

Figure 2. Correlation Between Average MyBCommLab Assignment Grade and Final Course Grade, Fall 2015 (n=18)

Relationship between average MyBCommLab assignment completion and average quiz and final course grades

MyBCommLab_MesaCC_Figure3

Figure 3. Relationship Between MyBCommLab Assignment Completion and Average Quiz Grades and Final Course Grades, Fall 2015 (n=18)

Relationship between average MyBCommLab assignment grade and average quiz grade

MyBCommLab_MesaCC_Figure4

Figure 4. Relationship Between Average MyBCommLab Assignment Grade and Average Quiz Letter Grades, Fall 2015 (n=18)

The Student Experience

Responses from a fall 2015 end-of-semester, voluntary survey of Tabar-Gaul’s students (100 percent response rate) indicate that the majority of responding students recognize the value of MyBCommLab:

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

Student survey responses to the statement, “Explain how you felt about the computer-graded Writing Space assignments in MyBCommLab” include:

  • “I was skeptical at first but after the first one realized it was a good program.”
  • “The computerized system did a good job and I was impressed by it to see that the scores were decent.”
  • “I found the computerized grading to be quite fair and mostly on par with the following grade given by the instructor.”
  • “I enjoyed them. A lot of sites similar to MyBCommLab have assignments that are graded immediately by a computer, however it was great to see how accurately the computer on MyBCommLab graded my written assignments.”

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

  • “I like that there was different methods of learning skills applied because people retain and process new information in many different ways.”  
  • “I liked the video segments that gave you choices in each of the scenarios. I felt it gave good explanations about the choices I made.”  
  • “I’m a read and learn type of student, so the MyBCommLab was useful. The tutorials had clean, clear visuals.”
  • “I liked the assignments that went with each chapter. I felt they helped me to learn useful information because they were interactive (you choose from options) versus just reading about it in a book.”

Conclusion

In Tabar-Gaul’s active learning environment, her students engage in activities like reading, writing, discussion, and problem solving to promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content. Successful creation of this environment in an online course, however, takes time to integrate well. Following a Pearson best practice, she cautions those planning to offer an online course with an interactive digital program to help their students get an exceptional start to the semester. She removes much of the initial confusion by creating a tutorial video-orientation to Canvas and MyBCommLab that is a basic ‘how-to’ guide for registration and start-up for these main course tools. In fact, the students’ first post on the discussion board is a reflection on their MyBCommLab sign in experience and first week of class; she listens to their responses and makes adjustments for the following semester accordingly. Once students get comfortable with the course structure, they can fully engage themselves in the active learning environment she creates and move closer toward the ultimate goal of being able to create professional communication for 21st century employment.

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