What is the first, easiest way to boost student learning using Courselets?
Faculty usually post practice-exam problems, and students study them (perhaps only the night before the exam!). Simply moving your practice exam onto Courselets can dramatically boost its benefit, by guaranteeing that 90% of your students will immediately receive individualized help for their specific errors and misconceptions, at the very time they are most motivated to work hard to fix them!
How this best-practice works:
- Courselets' safety + urgency design creates a "safety zone for errors" in which students are positively motivated to expose all their misconceptions. "This is your chance to boost your exam score, by showing us how you think through the kinds of problems that will be on the exam, so we can help you identify where specifically you're going wrong and how to fix BEFORE the exam." The student experiences this unusual combination of safety + urgency roughly as follows: "OK, here's a typical exam problem... uh-oh, looks like I got it quite wrong! Oh wait, here's some help that explains where my thinking is going wrong. OK that makes a lot more sense now. I better try the other practice problems ASAP!"
- Courselets' 10% Rule for Immediate Resolution guarantees that on average 90% of students receive help within 60 seconds of their first attempt to answer a question.
- In addition to these key motivational advantages, using existing practice exam problems as your first Courselets exercise is also a great place to start because it is almost no work. That is, most instructors already have practice exam problems at hand; they are obligated to provide those to students anyway (so there is little additional work on platform B instead of platform A); and this involves no change to your existing class assignments, lecture materials, or any other aspect of your course.
What is Safety + Urgency? In a conventional class incentives scheme, these two factors may seem opposed:
- Urgency: getting students to actively expose their misconceptions is hard work for them, both intellectually and psychologically. In the high pressure and pace of modern university education, students are driven to invest such hard work only in assignments that directly determine their grade.
- Safety: however, urgency contains a paradox -- it punishes students for exposing their misconceptions. The standard grading method of "points off for errors" switches students to tell the instructor what (you think) she wants to hear, rather than naively (i.e. honestly) thinking out loud. In other words, the prime directive is to get the points, rather than to self-reveal. "Safety" means replacing this prime directive with the fundamentally different goal of exposing all my misconceptions as quickly as possible. Any assignment that fails to convince students to embrace this radically different goal, loses most of its opportunities for learning by diagnosing specific misconceptions. Students seek to hide them as completely as they can!
In real classrooms this is a genuine catch-22. It can only be overcome via intelligent safety + urgency design: pair a Courselets exercise with a subsequent high-stakes assessment, for example by giving students practice exam problems as a Courselets exercise preceding the actual exam. The Courselets exercise should be assigned on a credit-for-completion basis (rather than "points off for errors") -- so that students will do it.