eCOTS 2014 - Virtual Poster #24

"The Dog ate My Computer: Implementing Statistics Homework Online"
Leigh V. Weiss, Capital University & Jackie Wroughton, Northern Kentucky University


Computer based homework systems have become very common in the college classroom over the last few years. As the systems have become more sophisticated, researchers have begun to investigate their pedagogical value from a number of perspectives. Initially most educational research on computer homework systems focused on a comparison between traditional pen and paper methods and the online systems and whether one method proved more effective for students (i.e. better grades). Many educators have theorized because the online "system is automatic, students may receive their graded homework almost instantly and master the materials through repetitive practice" (Peng, 2009, p.263). Others have noted that the systems "help students practice ... in an interactive and engaging manner, confront their deficiencies in course prerequisites, and ensure they grasp the skills and concepts presented in their textbooks - all without increasing professors' work-load" (Aplia Inc., 2007, ¶ 3). However, most of the studies that have compared traditional pen and paper homework to computer-based homework have found no significant difference in student achievement (Kodippili and Senaratne, 2008; Ye and Herron, 2009; Palocsay and Stevens, 2008). One study (Razzaq, Heffernan and Mendicino, 2009) showed that the type of online homework system and how it was implemented (specifically an "intelligent tutoring system") did significantly affect student achievement.

Research has now shifted toward looking at what factors influence student achievement while using a computer based homework system, rather than simply comparing the effectiveness of computer based homework to traditional pen and paper. Several studies have looked at mathematics and science related courses specifically. These studies have analyzed the relationship between student attitudes about homework, their attitudes about math and technology, and have attempted to measure the effectiveness of computer-based homework on its own (not in comparison to paper and pencil). These studies have found that students generally tend to favor online homework verses traditional homework (Smolira, 2008; Doorn, Janssen and O'Brien, 2010). Students "like(d) its flexibility and immediate feedback" and student "learning style is not associated with student attitudes about homework." "Students reported that online homework increases the time in studying for the class and their understanding of the material" (Smolira, 2008, p.94). However, the evidence also shows that students with a better attitude toward mathematics "put more effort into the homework and derive more benefit" (Doorn, Janssen and O'Brien, 2010, p.16). Peng (2009) hypothesizes that online homework can help students with low motivation if they perceive that the homework system will truly help their learning. Our research seeks to build upon the research that already exists and identify what factors are key to student achievement in a college level statistics course that utilizes an online homework system. We will present preliminary results from a semester long study that analyzes how students (from a variety of majors and backgrounds) interact with the homework system.



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Homer White:

What makes the Pearson package an "intelligent tutoring system?" Is it the "view an example" and "help me solve it" features", or are there other features? I'm wondering if a system might -- for example -- suggests additional practice questions in areas where it identifies weakness in the student.

Leigh Weiss:

Not sure if Pearson could be considered an intelligent tutoring system. I know others have the feature you are referring to (Hawkes is the one that comes to mind). Pearson does have a feature where students can build a "study plan". They take quizzes in different chapters and Pearson marks the objectives where they need to study more. I know Hawkes has a system that actually does not allow a student to move on until he/she has mastered the previous objective. However that was for an algebra course. I don't know if they have designed a system for a statistics course.

Nicholas Horton:

I like using online homework because it gives quick feedback and allows me to focus on writing in other assignments that students hand in. Ensuring that these systems actually are effective is an important area of research, and I look forward to hearing more about this project. Several years ago, I found the Pearson system to be fairly formulaic for many problems (and less conceptual). Was that your impression? Was it easy to grade short answer questions? @askdrstats