MyITLab educator study explores adjunct training at Trident Technical College
- Data identify a very strong positive correlation between MyITLab Grader Project scores and MyITLab quiz scores.
- Use of the MyITLab coordinator course to standardize the delivery of course content allows Fogle to offer students a similar course experience regardless of instructor or delivery method.
- Requiring new instructors to complete an abbreviated version of the MyITLab student course enables Fogle to regulate adjunct training and gives instructors a unique view of the student experience.
Trident Technical College, Charleston, SC
MyITLab®; Exploring Access by Poatsy, Mulbery, Davidson, and Grauer
Barbara Fogle, Faculty Instructor
- Locale: two-year, large, urban, public institution
- Enrollment: more than 15,000 students
- Full-time: 45 percent
- Retention rate: 62 percent
- Age: 53 percent age 24 or younger
- Gender: 60 percent female
- Ethnicity/race: 39 percent minority
About the Course
Instructor Barbara Fogle has been a full-time lecturer for approximately 23 years at Trident Tech, routinely teaching the Microcomputer Database course. Microcomputer Database is a three-credit, one term course enrolling over 500 students per year. It is required for students studying information systems and office technology, but is also open to business and paralegal students. Trident Tech’s 15-week semester comprises two seven-week terms, so classes are very fast-paced. This hybrid course meets once a week for three hours with the remainder of the course activities completed online. The course introduces microcomputer database concepts, including generating reports from databases and creating, maintaining, and modifying databases using Microsoft Access.
Challenges and Goals
As students were increasingly enrolling in online courses, Fogle and colleagues reevaluated how this course was taught. They identified the need for a digital program that could meet the needs of online students with multiple learning styles, but that also would work for face-to-face classes. Identifying simulation within the Office application as a critical need for online students whose skills varied dramatically, Trident Tech adopted MyITLab in 2010 as an alternative to only using a printed textbook. They believed that students who learn by doing instead of reading would benefit, as the program would train students visually and practically while allowing them to work at their own pace. Additionally, with many adjuncts teaching the Microcomputer courses, who were often hired at the last minute, it was important that the adopted digital program would allow the course coordinator to create a single, standardized course that all instructors could teach from and with which all students would learn.
MyITlab is required; the program is used primarily by students working at home on a personal computer. Students use MyITLab for understanding content, homework completion, and summative quizzes and exams. Fogle’s goals for assigning work in MyITLab 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, Fogle’s role is to assign content, homework, and assessments in MyITLab and provide support and remote monitoring for students.
As the lead instructor, Fogle designs the course in MyITLab and trains and mentors all adjunct instructors. Using the course coordinator functionality, she designs a master template that is then used to create all member sections used for student enrollment. She copies each section course to provide new instructors with a fully loaded, ready-to-go course complete with assignments, quizzes and exams, and due dates, as well as scripted lectures and lesson plans that allow Trident Tech to offer every student the same experience across all sections. Similarly, Fogle creates all courses in the Microcomputer suite in the same format, so as students progress through the courses, they are familiar with how to navigate the program and complete assignments and assessments.
Before providing new instructors with their course, Fogle implements a mandatory training program to help new adjuncts quickly learn how to use MyITLab themselves. She pares down the many options to just those needed to teach with the coordinator course and uses Pearson best practices to lend structure to the training. Fogle’s adjunct training program consists of the following:
- Each instructor must register and log in to MyITLab as a student and complete the orientation exercise which shows students how to answer questions they will encounter on homework and exams. This allows the instructor to experience the registration process so they can understand and remediate student issues as they arise, and also helps identify the common mistakes students make when answering questions and completing homework.
- Fogle chooses four of the many MyITLab How Do I? videos for her instructors to review. These videos cover the most common MyITLab modifications an instructor might need to make as the term progresses; for example, how to handle late assignment scores. By paring MyITLab video options down to just a few key topics, instructors can easily recall (and review if necessary) those items they will need to use most often throughout the term.
As instructors complete their ‘student course’, Fogle has access to a gradebook that allows her to monitor instructor progress and provide further guidance as needed. This student MyITLab course must be completed one week prior to the semester start so Fogle has time to address questions and issues and usually takes about four hours to complete. Because so many instructors are hired just a day or so before classes begin, the 14-day temporary access option permits Fogle to have instructors begin the process before they have been officially offered a contract, ensuring that they have enough time to complete the MyITLab course and request any additional information. Use of an avatar in MyITLab to point out the more challenging content helps instructors, especially those first-time instructors new to teaching, identify ahead of time where students might struggle, enabling them to focus more on these topics in lecture. To help new instructors save time on lesson plans, Fogle shares scripted lectures in MyITLab, which instructors can modify, that cover all course objectives and provide a template for lecture throughout the term. The seven-week term moves quickly, so having a proven, ready-to-go program is essential to keeping things progressing smoothly for new instructors.
Adjunct instructors were surveyed in Spring 2016 (91 percent response rate) about their experience using the MyITLab student course.
- 30 percent of instructors were hired a few days prior to the start of class; just 20 percent of instructors were hired more than two weeks prior to the start of classes.
- 100 percent of instructors completed the student MyITLab course in less than four hours.
- 100 percent of instructors strongly agreed (50 percent) or agreed that the training through MyITLab in the student view helped them understand what students would encounter when using the program.
- 100 percent of instructors strongly agreed (82 percent) or agreed that they appreciated having a complete MyITLab course already set up and ready to go, instead of having to create it themselves before classes began.
- 100 percent of instructors strongly agreed (82 percent) or agreed that the standardization of the MyITLab courses help Trident Tech deliver a similar course experience to all students, regardless of instructor experience or style.
- 90 percent of instructors strongly agreed or agreed that the “how-to” videos were complete and helpful during the semester.
Lecture is lab-based and attendance is not mandatory in Fogle’s hybrid course, but many students attend anyway. The three-hour weekly session is spent reviewing course content that will lead to successful completion of the summative MyITLab Grader Projects. Instructors demonstrate what students will be completing in the Grader Projects, then the session turns into a hands-on lab with students working in MyITLab, asking questions and working toward completion of the Training Simulation and Grader Project homework.
To help her students have the best experience possible, Fogle incorporates an avatar in her MyITLab course to keep students on task and alert them to key course communications. The first week of the semester, the avatar welcomes students and explains what they will be asked to complete in MyITLab. Each week, the avatar reminds students of assignment due dates and even changes hair color to identify new updates and course additions. The avatar covers frequently asked questions and identifies common mistakes students might make on more challenging content. On a Spring 2016 end-of-semester survey (60 percent response rate), 97 percent of students strongly agreed or agreed that the avatars in MyITLab provided helpful weekly updates and reminders throughout the course. Additionally, Fogle’s students are required to complete the MyITLab orientation exercise before attempting any assignments; this exercise covers common errors and gives students a strong foundation for working in MyITLab. Students have two attempts at completion because the goal is for them to earn a perfect score!
In the abbreviated seven-week term, students are given approximately one assignment per week in MyITLab.
- Simulation Trainings are completed first and required, but the score is not recorded in the gradebook as part of the final MyITLab score. However, students must earn at least 71 percent on the Simulation Training before they can access and complete the summative Grader Project. Learning aids—Read, Watch, Practice—are turned on during these assignments.
- Grader Projects are scored; students have five attempts at completion with the highest grade recorded as the final assignment grade. Multiple attempts allow students to improve their grade while they continue to learn. Additionally, multiple attempts allow for any problems with technical issues as well as potential grading issues by the MyITLab software.
Students were surveyed on their use of the Training Simulations and Grader Projects.
- 97 percent strongly agreed (70 percent) or agreed that the Training Simulations helped them get familiar with and practice skills in Microsoft Office before attempting the Grader Projects for a score.
- 97 percent strongly agreed (83 percent) or agreed that they used the available learning aids—Read, Watch, Practice—when they were unable to complete an activity in the Simulation Training.
Students offered positive comments about the Simulation Trainings on the survey:
- “I liked that when doing the Simulation Training, (MyITLab) was able to tell me if I did the action correctly right then and there.”
- “I liked the Simulation Training features that let you watch and practice. These were both very helpful when I was struggling with a certain area.”
For Access only, students also complete a weekly quiz in MyITLab as well as the weekly Grader Project homework assignment. Access is often the most challenging of the computer applications, so Fogle believes that reading and understanding the vocabulary may help students before attempting the Simulations and Grader Projects.
A cumulative, hands-on, practical final exam is given in MyITLab to students who have a course average less than 90 percent (A); Fogle offers this as an incentive for students to perform well on the MyITLab Grader Projects. An additional benefit is that more students attend the optional lecture, to participate in the hands-on lab sessions that cover the more challenging topics. They also can ask questions on content they find difficult. Students who take the final have two attempts at completion; the exam is not timed, and the hint feature is turned off. For the Access course in Spring 2016, only 44 percent of students needed to take the final exam, earning an average score of 80 percent.
- 63% MyITLab Grader Projects (8)
- 20% Final exam
- 10% Class participation
- 7% MyITLab quizzes (8)
Results and Data
Figure 1 is a correlation graph; 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 very strong positive correlation exists between average MyITLab Grader Project scores and average quiz scores, where r=.80 and p<.05.
For students, the formative MyITLab homework assignments are intended to help them identify where they are in terms of successfully completing the summative 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).
Correlation between average MyITLab quiz grade and average MyITLab grader project grade
Figure 1. Correlation between Average MyITLab Quiz Grade and Average MyITLab Grader Project Grade, Spring 2016 (n=28)
The Student Experience
Responses from the Spring 2016 end-of-semester, voluntary survey of Fogle’s students (60 percent response rate) indicate that the majority of responding students recognize the value of MyITLab.
- 100 percent strongly agree (67 percent) or agree that their understanding of the course material increased as a result of using MyITLab.
- 100 percent strongly agree (64 percent) or agree that the use of MyITLab positively impacted their exam scores.
- 100 percent strongly agree (72 percent) or agree that they would recommend MyITLab to another student taking this course.
Student survey responses to the question, “What did you like most about MyITLab?” include:
- “There is nothing I dislike about MyITLab. It is great and a wonderful learning program.”
- “I liked the Simulation Trainings because they helped me find ways to solve the problems.”
- “MyITLab allows you to make mistakes and in doing so, learn the correct way of completing a task.”
- “Easy navigation and not complicated. It clarified materials I read in the textbook and prepared me for most of the steps in the Grader Project.”
Use of the MyITLab coordinator course to standardize the delivery of course content enabled Fogle to regulate training of adjunct faculty and to offer students a similar course experience regardless of instructor or delivery method. She developed a systematic training program creatively using the student view of MyITLab to help faculty quickly learn how to use the program and identify challenges students may face during the semester. New instructors can be successfully brought on staff to teach, just days before the semester begins, and instructors teaching multiple application courses have the security of knowing that all courses in the program are set up similarly, requiring no further training. The seven-week term moves quickly, so having MyITLab as a ready-to-go program is essential for ensuring a smooth start for new instructors.