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January 7, 2009

2/12 Brown Bag to Show How Good Students Use Blackboard

UPDATE: Video Archive Now Available

Consistent with a 2008 national study showing students value checking grades more than ANY single function in a course management system like Blackboard, UMBC's first Spring 2008 Teaching, Learning and Technology (TLT) "Brown Bag" workshop will show how and why UMBC instructors may want to influence AND leverage this obsessive "status checking" behavior.

Specifically, Suzanne Braunschweig and John Fritz will show how she used new myUMBC & Blackboard reporting tools in her Fall 2008 course (SCI100 "Water: An Interdisciplinary Study"), and why the Division of Information Technology developed them.

They will also share results of a SCI100 student survey showing that students are much more inclined to check their own Bb activity before future assignments are due if instructors will post an anonymous Grade Distribution Report (GDR) by Bb activity for past assignments. To view a short, informal video screencast Fritz created to show Braunschweig how to create a GDR by Bb activity, click here.

Note: An examination of 2007-08 voluntary instructor GDRs showed students earning a final grade of D or F tended to use Blackboard 35 percent less than students earning a final grade of C or higher.

This Brown Bag workshop will be held on Thursday, February 12, at noon. For more information and to RSVP, visit www.umbc.edu/brownbag. Light refreshments will be provided to registered participants.

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Comments (2)

Joseph:

"An examination of 2007-08 voluntary instructor GDRs showed students earning a final grade of D or F tended to use Blackboard 35 percent less than students earning a final grade of C or higher."

Wow DUH! do you really need a study to confirm this?? Obviously, students who pass care about their grade and students with Ds or Fs don't care.

John Fritz:

Joseph,

Well, the "study" took me all of an hour to "examine" the data we have--but that's because we had it. More importantly, by trying to be as transparent as possible in publishing our data, I'm not trying to convince you or faculty, so much as I am students. But having the faculty on board would sure help (I think).

Frankly, you might not be surprised, but some students--and hopefully the ones who are likely to earn Ds and Fs--actually were. When I conducted a survey in Professor Braunschweig's 200-student FA2008 SCI 100 course, 28 percent said they were surprised by how their activity compared to an anonymous summary of their peers using our "Check My Activity" (CMA) tool. Another 42 percent said they would have to use the CMA more to determine its usefulness.

But on another question, 54 percent said they would be more inclined to use the CMA before future assignments are due if instructors would post an anonymous, Bb-activity based Grade Distribution Report (GDR) for past assignments. I don't want students to think they can just "game" Bb into forcing the prof to give them a higher grade. They'll quickly learn otherwise. But what if some students who aren't engaged become so when they can privately see how their peers use Bb to review notes or announcements, join discussions and possibly take advantage of practice quizzes--assuming profs provide such learning activities.

By the way, after "checking grades," the second most valued CMS function by students is the ability to take practice quizzes and exams, to prepare for the real thing. I'm not saying if instructors will build it, students will come. But for those students who do take advantage of such self-paced learning tools, if instructors will anonymously publish their results (in individual courses or maybe on a site like ours), this may persuade future students to follow suit. But this requires a commitment to track, analyze and report the data and trends over time. I'm hoping our reports can help students and faculty do this.

I'm not sure why you are so sarcastic, but I don't agree with your blanket statement that students who earn Ds and Fs "don't care." Call me an optimist, but maybe some of them don't know--before it's too late. Aren't they worth the little effort it took me and maybe a few profs using a GDR to shine light on how successful students use the CMS in their course?

And for all the students who've failed a course and later passed it when they took it again, I'd like to see if we can improve the performance of peers who follow them by giving them some insight they might not have otherwise. Whether they do anything with this information is their choice, but I think the chance that they might is worth the effort.

John Fritz

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