Faculty Learning Community: Online Homework

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On February 16, 2011

Introduced by Dr. Harvest Collier, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies

Organized by Diane Hagni, Center for Educational Research and Teaching Innovation (CERTI)

Notes compiled by Barb Wilkins, Educational Technology

Edited as needed by Malcolm Hays, Educational Technology (EdTech)

Dr. Collier asked everyone in the room to introduce themselves and give a little bit of info about why they are at the Faculty Learning Community (FLC). Present are a mix of people, some who have tried online HW and some who have not, some have tried in the past and not met success while others have never tried. Still others have tried and had success.

First part of presentation is given by Peris Carr, using Mastery Chemistry for Chem 1.  They picked this solution because the TAs were not grading fairly. Mastery is “fair”, they always grade the same way. It is not a Missouri S&T system, but is run by Pearson Education.  Students must pay additionally for it and register for it.

When you pick a book, you get a kit. Decision to do Mastering Chem is partly because of the book, but one reason they are using a particular book is because of the Mastering Chemistry.  The students do need to purchase a new book to get the program included.  A new book comes with access to online HW.  Or they have the option to buy a used book, but then they have to purchase online access, which costs more than online access. The program comes with an eBook also. Access is currently good for 2 years, if they have to repeat the course, they do not have to purchase a new access. If they take chem 3, still have access. If the student leaves and comes back and needs more access, they will often extend more than 2 years if they needed.

Kellie Grasman:  Wiley will no longer have access to online book unless they go through a manual process to get continued access.
Student in Mastering Chemistry program must make sure name and email matches files at Missouri S&T – so if Robert Smith goes by Bob and signs up in Mastering with Bob, they need to change to how they are registered in Mastering.

Instructor gives course ID and students join the course. When they log into Mastering, they see what is due soon.  Becomes red when short time til due
Chem 1 – homework is due 3rd day after each lecture. It allows students to rework all the problems for practice. Students are allowed to do each problem twice for points. If they solve problem and it is wrong, they are given feedback and told it is wrong. They can then get help or do it again as long as it is not due yet, they can get points. Multiple settings faculty can choose.
Grading is automatic. Students type an answer and submit.  Students can review what they typed in before. The online Gradebook shows color coding–red is not done. Green bar shows progress. Grades from Mastering Chemistry can be exported as an Excel spreadsheet, which can then be imported into Blackboard’s Grade Center.

Individual student grades can also be viewed, and the instructor can see answers by problem

The instructor can pick problems that are prewritten or can write their own. Problems can be randomized with numbers so that all students have different answers. If instructor wishes, he can change a date for good reasons. 

Questions:  How much do students try? How many give up? They (Chemistry instructors) are presently looking at this. 

Before Mastering Chemistry, the department used to have paper HW. Often, students would copy from one another. Now, each student must log in. The cheating has gone down because everyone must log in. Because of the immediate feedback, students are more likely to ask for help then go back home and re-enter the session. Also, every problem has national average info – how do your students do compared to the national average? We were better at everything except nomenclature – now we focus more on that than we used to. Also, instructors can look at common answers that are wrong.  They can adjust teaching to help with that. Pearson monitors common incorrect answers to write tutoring help for those questions. 

K. Grasman, an instructor for Engineering Management 137 —

She inherited 6 sections of Engineering Economics (Eng Econ), had way too much homework to grade with too little help. That was first reason to investigate online HW. She also needed to develop an online section. She looked for publishers with online homework so that she didn’t have to write all the problems herself and provide them in Blackboard. Wiley had just developed a new product, and was the only one with such a  product for Eng Econ.  She wanted to minimize cheating, reason for doing problems.

She does not call it homework, but calls it practice. Students can watch lectures online, but need to practice. Sitting watching instructor watch problems is not working. Now they have to practice themselves. 
Engineering Management adopted WileyPlus. It has an online text build in. It is outside Blackboard.  Students have option to purchase just the access code, and print some sections of the book.  Access code is about $65.  Printed book is $108 with access code.  Most students purchase code and print what they want.  Pilot in Fall 2010, now all 300 students using same book and homework.

Structure – assignments each week, with 3 chances to answer. Instead of paying a grader, students in the course have daily problem solving sessions. Now they have 2 former students who are undergrads, available by chat and in person, for one-on-one assistance instead of a grader. Also using discussion board to post questions for feedback by another student or instructor.  So far, it feels more efficient. Students MUST get it before it is too late which forces them to try.

Questions:  Chronology. Do they complete before lecture or after? Chem is due 3 days after lecture. 

So at what point does instructor look at answers and see if they need to reteach? 

Two aspects – one is improving on future classes.  Other is short return time – only two lectures, so still time to correct. If new class, need to monitor more closely. 
Chem gives reading quizzes that are timed, mostly definitions. Instructors give only 3 minutes with 3 questions. Students use mastering. They turn on mastering at noon of the lecture before, turn off at 8 a.m. on the day they are due. 

Eng Econ – Online HW changed way all of class is done. Previously students had to come to class. Most were present in body (in mind?). Now students get fundamentals in class if they show up. She can go back and see – last week large number could not get problem after 3 tries. Now, she uses that feedback to teach. 

With Chem – 4 sections are working together. Sometimes one is way ahead, sometimes one is way behind. Students do learn to attend lead, ask instructor to pick up pace. Course more consistent across instructors.

How do students feel about online HW? Two thoughts. Complaints based on inexperience, feel entitled to good grade, it is hard, unfair. After a while, they learn and deal with it. Kellie spoke to a lot of students about it. Disadvantage is that instructor loses process that student goes through. Students type in numerical answer, but doesn’t see what is behind it. She is afraid that it may de-emphasize process to students, but she discussed it in class. She still does assessment in class where process is shown so they still have to show it. Small errors must be accounted for in person. Chem allows additional answer attempts for reduced credit, which helps to account for partial credit or for small mistakes.
Students who spend more time on the online HW do better – time on task is known.
Can provide practice only – then only
have tests for grades. 

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On February 16, 2011. Posted in Faculty Learning Community, Teaching Strategies