Erik Moody, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Marist College, says “I know high-quality online courses with analytics work because we do research on it.” In 2011, Moody was part of a research project that used predictive analytics to help instructors identify at-risk students and intervene early to promote student success. As a result, Marist received the 2013 Campus Technology Innovators Award in the teaching and learning category.
What prompted your first foray into online learning this semester?
My interest was spawned from a grant-funded learning analytics research project, the Open Academic Analytics Initiative (OAAI), that we launched in 2011. The OAAI ran a study involving instructors and student at four participating institutions (Marist, Cerritos College, College of the Redwoods, and North Carolina A&T State University). At-risk students were identified using data generated from course management systems and other demographic data.
Some of these students were alerted about their at-risk status. Another group received alerts as well as access to additional intervention resources. The basic findings confirmed that even a simple intervention, if provided early, could help students improve their trajectory.
The study highlighted important issues that we plan on investigating, such as the timing of an early alert and an observed increase in withdrawal rates. An in-depth description of the study will soon be published in the Journal of Learning Analytics.
How did the research project lead to the hybrid Introduction to Psychology course you’re teaching this semester?
Intro to Psychology at Marist is a traditional sit-down course meeting twice a week for 75 minutes. I’m supplementing the textbook with Acrobatiq’s Introduction to Psychology for the assessments and analytics.
I’m interested in using Acrobatiq’s courseware in a traditional classroom setting. I believe that the learning experience will be enhanced by using the strategies implemented in the platform — such as numerous and frequent assessment with immediate feedback — in a tradition setting, which allows for personal contact and one-on-one interactions. In other words, you get the best of both worlds. In the future, we may move to a true hybrid, where the class time is cut in half freeing up more time for research, committees, advisement, etc.
What’s the feedback so far on the online exercises and assessments?
Students seem to like it. Some like the instant feedback on how they’ve done after the checkpoints. Some do very well. For some, it’s still so new. One of the benefits for students of a hybrid course is that it gives them an opportunity to learn in two different environments; it broadens the formats in which they are exposed.
From a teaching perspective, what features do you find most beneficial?
I like the ‘early and often’ assessments and the fact that students can get instant feedback on the exercises as they complete them, instead of waiting until the quiz is graded. Having an opportunity for them to learn from their mistakes, prior to the assessment, and learn quickly, is very advantageous.
Also, as students are doing the assignments, there is a constant stream of emails from them asking me questions. This shows me they are engaged. It seems to have generated a lot more electronic communications outside of the classroom. For me, it’s an indicator that students are engaged and participating.
How are you using The Learning Dashboard™?
I’m concerned with reaching students early enough to make a difference. I really like the technology and see great potential. I’m very impressed with the organization of the dashboard. The opportunity to get feedback on student performance early and frequently not only allows a student to identify and address a problem, the online format provides a rich source of data for learning analytics to provide feedback to students and instructors, efficiently and quickly. It would be nice if the checkpoint outcomes were presented in a format that were easier to review in the classroom.
Often struggling students don’t recognize that their efforts are not sufficient until it’s too late to recover from a poor or failing grade. Other students remain in denial until confronted by their instructor. A system that assists an instructor in identifying at-risk students early will speed and facilitate an intervention, which might allow a student to improve their performance resulting in better student outcomes.
What would you say to instructors, who care about improving student outcomes, but are reluctant to change what they’ve always done?
Everybody is interested, but there’s still a lot they don’t know about the technology. And it’s a change, not the status quo. As educators, we have a responsibility to stay current with different educational resources and approaches. I know high-quality online courses with analytics work because we do research on it. Anything we can do to offer a great education and free up some time is valuable to tenured professors and adjuncts alike.
Jayaprakash S., Moody E., Lauría E., Regan J., Baron J., (2014) “Early Alert of Academically At-Risk Students: An Open Source Analytics Initiative”, Journal of Learning Analytics (accepted, pending publication)
Lauria, E., Moody, E., Jayaprakash, S., Jonnalagadda, N., & Baron, J. (2013). Open Academic Analytics Initiative: Initial Research Findings. Proceedings of the 3rd international Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge. ACM New York, NY, USA, 150-154 doi:10.1145/2460296.2460325
For more on analytics, download Understanding Analytics, the latest paper in the Acrobatiq Insights series or view an excerpt from our recent webinar on the Essentials of Analytics in Online Higher Education.