MyMedicalTerminologyLab educator study examines impact of Dynamic Study Modules on course success at Del Mar College

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MyMedicalTerminologyLab™ educator study examines impact of Dynamic Study Modules on course success at Del Mar College

Key Findings

  • After adding Dynamic Study Modules as a required component to MyMedicalTerminologyLab, weekly assignments, average quiz, final exam, and final course grades increased substantially.
  • Students who completed all MyMedicalTerminologyLab homework assignments had average quiz scores 11 percentage points higher than students who skipped at least one MyMedicalTerminologyLab assignment and average final exam scores 8 percentage points higher.
  • Student respondents on an end-of-semester survey unanimously agreed that the test-review-retest pattern of the Dynamic Study Modules helped them learn and remember chapter content.

School name
Del Mar College, Corpus Christi, TX

Course name
Medical Terminology

Course format
Fully online

Course materials
MyMedicalTerminologyLab; Medical Terminology: A Living Language by Fremgen and Frucht

Timeframe
Fall 2015 and Spring 2016

Educator
Bob Fanger, Assistant Professor

Results reported by
Traci Simons and Candace Cooney, Pearson Customer Outcomes Analytics Managers

Setting

  • Locale: a comprehensive, commuter community college offering two main campuses and two centers in Corpus Christi and the Calallen, Texas area
  • Enrollment: more than 23,000 total students; approximately 11,000 credit students
  • Student-faculty ratio: 17:1
  • Graduation rate: 16.2 percent of the 2010 first-time full-time entering cohort graduated by 2014
  • First-time full-time freshmen: 5.3 percent
  • Gender: 52 percent female
  • Age: 47 percent over age 25
  • Diversity: 61 percent Hispanic, 27 percent Caucasian

About the Course

Professor Bob Fanger has been teaching the Medical Terminology course at Del Mar College for approximately ten years. Medical Terminology is a one-semester, one-credit course enrolling approximately 500 freshman and sophomore students per year as a prerequisite for other health science courses. The course is taught fully online and covers medical terminology, symbols and abbreviations, and the application of this new language in the field of healthcare. While terms are covered as they relate to body structure and function, the main focus is on medical vocabulary and being able to construct terms using word parts such as roots, suffixes, and prefixes. Students completing this course should be able to:

  • Explain the importance of medical terminology when documenting and communicating patient information;
  • Identify the fundamental word structure of medical terminology and its component parts;
  • Analyze medical terminology based on word structure;
  • Describe the component parts that make up the body;
  • Define common medical terms and abbreviations;
  • Describe the organization and structure of the human body; and
  • Build medical terminology related to body structures, functions and disorders.

Challenges and Goals

In 2011, the Medical Terminology course was only offered face to face. The desire to offer a fully online course, along with finding a replacement for the outdated CD-ROM technology that was being used for homework at the time, led Fanger and his colleagues to consider new options for their Fall 2011 classes. They were looking for a digital program that would allow them to offer all students the same course experience regardless of the instructor or method of delivery. Additionally, a program that could offer students options for learning using aural, visual, verbal, and logical activities was appealing. Fanger adopted MyMedicalTerminologyLab (MMTL) for Fall 2011 classes. When Dynamic Study Modules (DSM) were added to MMTL, Fanger saw the opportunity to use adaptive learning as a tool that could direct his face-to-face lectures toward the course content his students find most challenging. He chose to pilot the DSM with both online and face-to-face students in Spring 2016.

Implementation

MyMedicalTerminologyLab is required; the program is used primarily by students working at home on a personal computer. Students use MMTL for understanding content, homework assignments, and testing. Fanger’s goals for assigning work in MMTL 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, Fanger’s role is to assign content, homework, and assessments in MMTL and provide support and remote monitoring to students using the program at home.

Fanger anticipates that students will spend approximately 34 hours per week working in MMTL. Students confirmed this on a voluntary, end-of-semester Summer 2016 survey (64 percent response rate): 37 percent of students said they spent 34 hours per week working in MMTL, while an additional 39 percent of students said they spent more than four hours working in the program.

Every chapter in MMTL has a prescribed checklist of activities required to successfully complete the chapter, and students are instructed to follow that checklist, in the specified order, to complete each lesson. Graded activities include: Dynamic Study Modules, Matching, Word Surgery, Review, and MMTL quizzes. Although ungraded, Fanger urges his students to view the Guided Lectures in MMTL and read the eText. While students are free to work at their own pace, they are encouraged to complete one chapter per week of class, as the assignments do have firm due dates. All assignments are pre-loaded and students have unlimited attempts. Fanger chooses activities in MMTL in conjunction with the curriculum of the other health science courses offered on campus. Fanger finds students are often interested in the activities, as they are more applicable to what his students will study in future courses.

Guided Lectures are narrated lectures delivered by the author, with the PowerPoints that accompany the chapter. While optional, Fanger encourages the students to use these lectures to prepare for the graded activities and also to reinforce correct pronunciation of medical terms. Essentially, the Guided Lectures replace the face-to-face lecture that online students inherently do not have the opportunity to experience. Fanger considers the Guided Lectures to be one of the content offerings he was looking for to help students with different learning styles, especially students who are strong visual and/or audio learners. Students on the end-of-semester survey responded favorably to the Guided Lectures—100 percent of students strongly agreed or agreed that the Guided Lectures were a useful addition to the written textbook, offering an optional way to learn and remember the chapter content. For more information on Guided Lectures and other activities available in MMTL, see pages 108–112 of the MyMedicalTerminologyLab Implementation Guide.

Dynamic Study Modules (DSM) are questions that continuously assess student performance and activity, using data and analytics to provide personalized content in real-time to reinforce concepts that target the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. Fanger assigns Dynamic Study Modules to give his students additional practice in the areas where they struggle the most. As a student stated on the end-of-semester survey, “I like how it explained why your choice was wrong and would give you definitions of the other answer choices. That was a way of learning the other words, too.” The DSM are mastery-based and required, so students generally complete them all. Homework assignments have firm due dates, so late assignment penalties apply.

On the end-of-semester survey, students shared the following:

  • 100 percent strongly agreed (58 percent) or agreed that the test-review-retest pattern of the Dynamic Study Modules helped them learn and remember chapter content.
  • 87 percent of students strongly agree or agree that the use of confidence levels when answering questions in the DSM (‘I am sure’, ‘I am partially sure’, ‘I don’t know yet’) helped them identify chapter content they needed to focus on.

For more information on how to assign Dynamic Study Modules, see page 110 of the MyMedicalTerminology Implementation Guide.

Five quizzes are offered in MMTL throughout the semester. Quizzes are comprised of 50 multiple-choice questions drawn from the Pearson test bank. Students have just one attempt and 63 minutes for completion. The completion time allowed is drawn from the 1-minute, 15-second rate of response for critical thinking questions. Once a quiz has been opened, it must be completed. Fanger uses Respondus LockDown browser so students cannot access other applications or websites during the quiz. Students receive a 10-point deduction for any quiz not taken by the due date, and earn 0 percent if the quiz is not completed within one week of the deadline. The final exam is given through Canvas, the Del Mar College learning management system. The exam is comprised of 100 multiple-choice questions from the Pearson test bank, with an even number of questions from each chapter. Questions are not pooled, but are randomized. Students have 2.5 hours for completion and the exam is proctored on campus.

Students are offered the opportunity for extra credit through discussion posts. In order for students to earn the extra credit, they must make an initial post and the required subsequent posts. Completion of discussion posts can add up to ten points to a student’s quiz score.

Assessments

  • 40% Final exam
  • 30% MyMedicalTerminologyLab homework assignments
  • 30% MyMedicalTerminologyLab quizzes (five)

Results and Data

Note: The analysis in this study does not include students who did not take the final exam and who failed to drop the course prior to the withdrawal deadline (n=6).

Data indicate (figure 1) that after incorporating Dynamic Study Modules into his MMTL homework assignments in Spring 2016, average quiz, final exam and final course grades increased substantially over grades from the previous semester (Fall 2015). In Spring 2016, Fanger’s students completed five quizzes as their summative course assessments; in Fall 2015, students completed two exams as their summative assessments.

  • Average quiz score increased 18 percentage points in Spring 2016.
  • Average final exam score increased 10 percentage points in Spring 2016.
  • Average final course grade increased 10 percentage points in Spring 2016.

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 Dynamic Study Module scores and average MMTL homework assignment scores, where r=.75 and p<.05.
  • A strong positive correlation exists between average Dynamic Study Module scores and average quiz score, where r=.50 and p<.05.

For students, the formative Dynamic Study Modules and MMTL homework assignments are intended to help them identify where they are in terms of successfully completing the summative quizzes; 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 MMTL homework assignments they completed. Students who completed all assignments earned higher average quiz and final exam scores than students who did not complete all MMTL assignments (figure 4).

  • Average number of MMTL homework assignments skipped: <1
  • Students who completed all MMTL homework assignments had average quiz grades 11 percentage points higher than students who did not complete all assignments.
  • Students who completed all MMTL homework assignments had final exam grades 8 percentage points higher than students who did not complete all assignments.

Average grades before and after Dynamic Study Module implementation

Figure 1. Average Quiz, Final Exam, and Final Course Grades Before (Fall 2015) and After (Spring 2016) Dynamic Study Module Implementation, Fall 2015 (n=54) and Spring 2016 (n=59)

Correlation between Dynamic Study Module score and average MMTL homework score

Figure 2. Correlation between Dynamic Study Module Score and Average MMTL Homework Assignment Score, Spring 2016 (n=59)  

Correlation between Dynamic Study Module score and average quiz score

Figure 3. Correlation between Dynamic Study Module Score and Average Quiz Score, Spring 2016 (n=59)  

Relationship between MMTL assignment completion and average quiz and final exam scores

Figure 4. Relationship between MMTL Assignment Completion and Average Quiz and Final Exam Scores, Spring 2016 (n=59)

The Student Experience

Responses from the Spring 2016 end-of-semester, voluntary survey of Fanger’s students (64 percent response rate) indicate that the majority of responding students recognize the value of MMTL.

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

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

  • “I liked the games because they made homework fun.”
  • “I liked being able to re-take everything. It made me remember way more, and I got a better grade!”
  • “I like that it has different ways of presenting the same material. This helped me remember the material a lot better.”
  • “I liked the timed review because it seemed like an actual test and would let me know if I actually knew the material and what to study.”

Student survey responses to the question, “Explain how the DSM helped you to understand the chapter material,” include:

  • “I like how when I get something wrong, it goes over it again and again until I get it right. It’s like a little study partner.”
  • “I like how it explained why my answer choice was wrong and gave me definitions of the other answer choices. That was a good way of learning the other words.”
  • “The repetition of the information helped me retain it better.”

Conclusion

Fanger believes MMTL meets the goals he set out when adopting the product: the program provides content in different formats for different learning styles through the eText, guided lectures, and games/activities; MMTL allows students to retake assignments as many times as they wish whenever they want, which allows them the flexibility to learn the material at their own pace in a fully online environment; and the Dynamic Study Modules continuously assess student performance and activity, thus giving students additional practice in the areas where they struggle the most.

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