One advantage of online learning is the learning data it generates which, if presented effectively, reveals actionable insights that lead to better course design and improved learning outcomes.
Acrobatiq’s Learning Dashboard, for example, provides instructors with real-time information about how students are doing in a class and where they fall on the learning curve.
Dr. Benny Johnson, director of research and development at Acrobatiq, says instructional designers and faculty have several ways to take advantage of dashboard elements like graphs and charts. Here are a few that allow instructors to quickly see and diagnose a problem.
Use the graph to quickly identify struggling students
A scatter plot graph is one of the main elements of the newest version of the Acrobatiq Learning Dashboard. The x-axis of the scatter plot graph displays how much work has been done in a course, while the y-axis represents how much a student has learned. This learning estimate is generated by Acrobatiq’s analytics engine and based on a student’s performance on assessments and other activities.
Each student in the class is plotted onto the instructor’s graph as a dot; students who haven’t done anything are down at the lower left, near the origin base. Students who are excelling, on the other hand, are up at the top right of the graph.
The lower left may seem like the biggest sign of problems, but Johnson points out that the insight there is more obvious. Students don’t show evidence of learning because they aren’t actually doing much work.
Instead, Johnson advises instructors to keep an eye on the lower right quadrant of the graph. Those are the students who are working hard, completing every activity, but are not learning much- indicating students who can benefit from an intervention.
Isolate data for small sections of a course
Authors sometimes make errors when they’re creating a course. Though the learning dashboard is most often used to monitor the progress of students, it is also an excellent tool for finding and correcting these errors.
“You might see that students are doing a lot of work on a certain learning objective, but they’re not in general achieving very high mastery,” says Johnson. “That’s a tip-off that something’s wrong with the instruction on that objective.”
For example, instructors can use Acrobatiq’s learning dashboard to get data about the performance of individual learning objectives. To see that information the instructors set up a graph like the one that monitored the class’s performance in the course as a whole. This graph, however, monitors student performance on just one learning objective.
Sometimes, however, a mistake can be even smaller. On Acrobatiq’s platform, learning objectives are broken into individuals skills that students must master, and each of those are connected to several activities. Learning dashboards allow instructors to examine performance on individual activities, either by cohort or by individual.
Instructors, says Johnson, can search out the worst-performing activity in a course: a question, for example, that everyone gets wrong. A question no one can answer is usually a sign that that question itself is the problem.
“Suppose I wrote the activity, and I have a multiple choice question there,” says Johnson. “The correct answer is C, and I accidentally entered the correct answer as B when I made the answer key. Everybody that gets it right is going to be counted wrong.”
Instructors can use the dashboard to find activities where competency seems to be a problem, focus on those questions, and fix them.
Monitor over-confident students
If an instructor is using the dashboard, they know how well students are learning. But do the students know how well they’re learning?
Acrobatiq allows course creators to add “before you continue” questions to an assessment. These questions ask students how confident they are about their progress on a learning objective.
The dashboard lets instructors compare students’ confidence to their progress. Over-confident students may need an intervention from the instructor, while under-confident students who are doing well on their assessments might just need a word of encouragement.
Show students the data
Instructors aren’t the only ones who can benefit from seeing learning data in real-time. Students can and should be able to see their own progress along the learning curve as well, says Johnson.
Dr. Erik Moody, an assistant professor of psychology at Marist College, has shared his tactic for doing this in his blended Introduction to Psychology course. Moody shows a summary of learning data from online activities to his students at the start of each class meeting. Students see their own grades — posted by Moody anonymously — compared to the rest of the class. Moody can also explain why, based on that data, he’s using class time in a particular way that day.
Being able to see and interact with learning data is a part of active learning. Faculty in large lecture courses who share student data with the class have said that their students pay more attention. They feel like their online work is connected to what they’re learning in class meetings.
“We can use this learning data as one way to motivate students,’” says Johnson. “Like, ‘Oh, you’re almost there! If you just do a little more work you’ll probably be there.’”
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A.J. O’Connell is a freelance journalist specializing in education reporting and a former college journalism teacher.