MyEconLab® educator study analyzes the use of Digital Interactives and homework and exam scores at North Hennepin Community College

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MyLab Economics educator study analyzes the use of Digital Interactives and homework and exam scores at North Hennepin Community College

Key Findings

  • Data indicate strong, positive correlations between MyLab homework and quiz scores, as well as MyLab quiz and exam scores.
  • Students showing mastery of course content by earning an A/B/C average on quizzes and exams had substantially higher average MyLab homework scores.
  • Student survey results indicate that the active learning aspect of the MyLab Digital Interactives on core economic concepts helped students understand the chapter content more completely.

School name
North Hennepin Community College, Brooklyn Park, MN

Course name
Principles of Macroeconomics

Course format
Accelerated hybrid

Course materials
MyLab Economics with Macroeconomics: Principles, Applications, and Tools by O’Sullivan, Sheffrin, and Perez

Timeframe
Spring 2016

Submitted by
Ania Antus, Instructor

Setting

  • Locale: medium-sized, suburban, public, two-year institution
  • Enrollment: 10,000 credit students, 4,600 full-year equivalent students
  • Full-time: 16 percent
  • First generation: 59 percent
  • Gender: 57 percent female
  • Average age: 27
  • Low income: 45 percent
  • Diversity: 44 percent minority

About the Course

Instructor Ania Antus has been teaching for approximately 18 years, the past two years at North Hennepin Community College (NHCC); she has been teaching Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics for 14 years. Principles of Macroeconomics is a one-semester, three-credit course taken as a general education elective open to students in all majors The course is a scientific study of how society makes decisions to allocate scarcity of its resources. It is designed to provide an understanding of how economics can be used to evaluate and explain decisions of consumers, businesses, and government.

Course learning outcomes include:

  • identifying the difference between fiscal and monetary policy;
  • recognizing the distinction between inflation, deflation, and disinflation;
  • defining the natural rate of unemployment and the concept of multiplier; and,
  • understanding why consumer spending is an important force in economy.

Challenges and Goals

Dr. Antus had used several different digital homework programs in her Micro/Macroeconomic courses over the past five years, mostly with marginal success. But her desire to offer her students a homework program with just-in-time personalized feedback, along with her need for online grading assistance, prompted her to consider MyLab™ Economics in 2014. In addition, NHCC was in the process of creating hybrid courses which would require online homework as well as digital content delivery. MyLab offered a complete package of online homework, tutorial, and assessment options that could be implemented for hybrid courses, as well as the capability to integrate with the school’s learning management system, Desire2Learn (D2L). Antus adopted MyLab in Fall 2014, and in Spring 2016, piloted a new feature called Digital Interactives (DI). DI focus on core learning outcomes and promote active learning.

Implementation

MyLab Economics is required; the program is used primarily by students working at home on a personal computer. Students use MyLab for understanding content, applying principles to the real-world homework assignments, and testing. Antus’ goals for assigning work in MyLab are to teach new concepts, provide homework and practice opportunities, help students assess their own understanding of the course material and track their progress, and identify at-risk students. As the course instructor, Antus’ role is to assign content, homework, and assessments in MyLab and provide support and remote monitoring to students using the program at home. While students are often working remotely, the course is not self-paced as defined due dates are firm.

Antus anticipates that students will spend 2–4 hours per week working in MyLab, not including time spent reading the eText. Students confirmed this on a voluntary, end-of-semester spring 2016 survey (45 percent response rate)49 percent of students said they spent 2–4 hours per week working in MyLab while an additional 27 percent of students said they spent four or more hours working in the program.

Accelerated hybrid classes at NHCC are eight weeks in length, with 50 percent of course activities completed outside of the classroom. This includes all self-directed graded and non-graded activities in both MyLab and D2L. Once-a-week lecture held in the evening comprises the other 50 percent of the course. Antus uses this face-to-face time to lecture on the more challenging topics as well as engage in active-learning activities like discussion of current events, real-world application videos, simulations, experiments, critical thinking group work, and group discussion and questions. With significant course work taking place outside the classroom, Antus encourages students to be responsible for their own learning experience. Two chapters are covered each week, and Antus posts student notes for each chapter in D2L; the notes do not replace textbook reading, but complement more challenging content.

At the first class meeting, Antus conducts an orientation explaining how to log in and register for MyLab. Students view a video that outlines the process and Antus then asks a student volunteer to actually register for MyLab while the other students watch and take notes. This Pearson best practice sets her students up for a successful start to using MyLab. Additionally, she posts written registration and get-started documents in D2L.

Students complete one MyLab assignment per chapter (15 total) and learning aids are turned on. Learning aids provide students with helpful feedback when they enter incorrect answers. 85 percent of students on the end-of-semester survey said they always or usually use learning aids when they cannot start or complete a homework exercise. MyLab assignments and assessments consist of the following:

  • Getting Started With MyLab assignment: following a Pearson best practice, this first-week-of-school assignment has two goals: to assure students have registered and logged into MyLab immediately, and to show students the type of questions they will see in homework assignments, as well as how to answer them. This includes graphing questions, real-time time data exercises, and how to use the learning aids.
  • Homework: each assignment is comprised of 10 multi-part problems, including graphing, chosen from a Mylab pre-built assignment, and all chapter topics are included. Students have unlimited attempts at completion and assignments are untimed. Practice is the goal.
  • Simulations and experiments: single-player games covering six core topics are intended to promote active-learning and help students master important concepts like price floors and ceilings, taxes, and public goods. Antus assigns four experiments or simulations throughout the course and students must submit them any time before the final exam is offered.
  • Quizzes: each quiz is comprised of 10 questions, shorter than homework problems, and involving less calculation. Questions are either multiple-choice or a problem and are pooled and algorithmic. Students have three attempts and 20 minutes to complete them.
  • Exams: three exams cover five chapters and each are comprised of 50 questions, with ten questions per chapter. Exams are a mix of multiple-choice, graphing, and problems. Antus uses the Pearson-provided average time per question data to create an exam that must be completed in two hours. Exams are open for one week; students have two attempts at completion with the highest grade recorded as the final score. Exams are limited to two-hours and must completed once opened in MyLab.
  • Personalized learning study plan: the study plan monitors student performance on homework, quizzes, and exams and continuously makes custom remediation recommendations based on the results. The study plan is optional but Antus shows students how to access and use it during the first week of class and explains why and how it can help them master concepts. On the end-of-semester survey, 62 percent of students said they used the optional study plan for practice, to identify chapter material they were struggling with, or both. Learn more about the using the personalized study plan here.

In Spring 2016, Antus incorporated Digital Interactives into her MyLab usage. DI offer real-time graph displays that use comprehensive and up-to-date economic data from the Federal Reserve Bank. They are engaging simulations that help students understand fundamental concepts like opportunity cost, comparative advantage, unemployment, and monetary policy in an active-learning format. “Digital Interactives put the student in the driver seat, allowing the student to see the reality and theory combined togethe,” says Antus. They can be assigned and auto-graded in MyLab or used as a unique presentation tool in lecture. Students uniformly found the DI to be a helpful learning tool as indicated on the end-of-semester survey:

  • 98 percent of students strongly agreed or agreed that the active-learning aspect of the DI helped them understand the chapter content more completely.
  • 93 percent of students strongly agreed or agreed that the DI offered a more engaging out-of-class experience than traditional homework assignments.
  • 96 percent of students responded that they would recommend their instructor continue to use the DI in this course.

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

  • “The DI explained cause and effect of many concepts that were difficult to comprehend.”
  • “It helped me to understand things better to actually participate in a real example.”
  • “I liked interfacing with the Digital Interactives more than the textbook. It helped me understand more than just reading the book. I love this website!”
  • “Digital Interactives were a lot easier to understand.”

For a demonstration of Digital Interactives, please refer to this video.

Assessments

  • 42% Exams (three)
  • 22% MyLab homework assignments (15)
  • 22% MyLab quizzes (15)
  • 14% Simulations and experiments

Results and Data

Students completed three exams, evenly spaced throughout the course, each covering five chapters. Data show that students who averaged 70 percent or more on MyLab homework assignments earned stronger exam scores, two letter grades higher on each exam, than students who scored less than 70 percent on MyLab homework assignments (figure 1).

  • Exam 1: average exam score was 18 percentage points greater for students earning 70 percent or higher on MyLab homework.
  • Exam 2: average exam score was 12 percentage points greater for students earning 70 percent or higher on MyLab homework.
  • Exam 3: average exam score was 23 percentage points greater for students earning 70 percent or higher on MyLab homework.

Figures 2 and 3 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 <.05 shows the existence of a positive correlation between these two variables.

  • A strong positive correlation exists between average MyLab homework grades and average MyLab quiz grades, where r=.43 and p<.05.
  • A strong positive correlation exists between average MyLab quiz grades and average MyLab exam grades, where r=.64 and p<.05.

For students, the formative MyLab 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).

Students were divided into two groups based on the average number of MyLab homework assignments they completed. Students who completed all assignments earned higher average quiz and exam scores than students who did not complete all MyLab assignments (figure 4).

  • Average number of MyLab homework assignments skipped: <1
  • Students who completed all MyLab homework assignments had average quiz grades 19 percentage points higher than students who did not complete all assignments.
  • Students who completed all MyLab homework assignments had average exam grades 15 percentage points higher than students who did not complete all assignments.
  • 73 percent of students completed all MyLab homework assignments.

Average MyLab homework score and individual exam scores

MyEconLab_AniaAntus_Figure1

Figure 1. Relationship between Average MyLab Homework Score and Individual Exam Scores, Spring 2016 (n=99)

Correlation between average MyLab homework score and average MyLab quiz score

MyEconLab_AniaAntus_Figure2

Figure 2. Correlation between Average MyLab Homework Score and Average MyLab Quiz Score, Spring 2016 (n=99)

Correlation between average MyLab quiz score and average MyLab exam score

MyEconLab_AniaAntus_Figure3

Figure 3. Correlation between Average MyLab Quiz Score and Average MyLab Exam Score, Spring 2016 (n=99)

The Student Experience

Responses from the Spring 2016 end-of-semester, voluntary survey of Antus’s students (45 percent response rate) indicate that the majority of responding students recognize the value of MyLab.

  • 93 percent of students strongly agree or agree that their understanding of the course material increased as a result of using MyLab.
  • 100 percent of students strongly agree (58 percent) or agree that the use of MyLab positively impacted their exam scores.
  • 98 percent of students strongly agree (64 percent) or agree that they would recommend MyLab to another student taking this course.
  • 96 percent of student strongly agree or agree that MyLab provided additional resources that helped them learn more than they would have from traditional paper and pencil homework.

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

  • “It has many different ways of explaining/helping the student figure out a certain problem. It makes asking for help very easy.”
  • “I like how it has a study tool [learning aids] for each question. If you don’t understand the question, you can just click on this tool and read more about the subject. It actually helped me learn.”
  • “It was helpful and resourceful. You can be on there as long as you like and study. Once you are online studying, you don’t want to get off!”
  • “I have taken a lot of online classes throughout my education and I feel that MyLab has provided a lot more than most of the other classes I have taken. I like that I was never stuck on a problem for too long.”
  • “I liked the whole experience of using MyLab because it helped me learn everything by example and the Study Plan helped me by walking through problems I didn’t understand, helping me solve them. Without it [MyLab], I wouldn’t have been as successful.”

Conclusion

MyLab offered students in this accelerated, hybrid course format the just-in-time personalized support Antus desired when she looked for a new digital platform. Her students relied on the supportive learning aids of MyLab while completing homework where they were given immediate feedback for incorrect responses, which was something most students responding to the survey found highly beneficial. Antus also incorporated the Digital Interactives to inject an active learning aspect into homework assignments, offering her students a unique and well-received method to understanding fundamental economic concepts.

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