Formative testing with learning catalytics

Increasing the study success of TUD-students is a university-wide aim. The Education department of the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering was concerned about the number of students who were not passing the bachelor course about non-linear mechanics. This is a large course (700 students). To stimulate students to keep on top of their coursework, a weekly formative test was introduced. The system used for this was Learning Catalytics. This worked as follows:

  • Students had two lectures each week.
  • In each two-hour lecture, they received a regular lecture for 60 minutes, followed by a break of 15 minutes. Then they had 30 minutes to complete the formative test.
  • The formative test was about the contents of the lecture. To be able to follow the lecture, the students had to come prepared to class.
  • The aim of the questions in the formative test was to show that students understood the concepts of the lecture. Therefore, the questions were relatively small and required little calculations.
  • The students were allowed to cooperate and use all of their learning materials to complete the test.
  • The questions on the formative test were similar to the questions on the final exam. Students who completed all formative tests were well prepared for the final exam.
  • Students received a bonus on their final exam. The better they did on the formative tests, the higher the bonus.

In contrast to other similar systems, such as TurningPoint and MapleTA, Learning Catalytics is easy to use and implement. The tests could be set up the evening before the lecture.Read more about learning catalytics

The goal of this project was to stimulate students to keep on top of their coursework.

The added value of this innovation is:

  • Increasing the study succes of the students
  • Activating groups
  • Activating students: students actively engaged with the course work, by keeping up with their weekly study load.
  • Prepare students for summative exam: students who did well on the formative tests did well on their final exam.
  • High student satisfaction: on the student satisfaction questionnaire, students indicated the formative tests were useful study material and stimulated them to study.
  • Flexibility in types of questions: Learning Catalytics has options for the many types of questions. It has options for multiple choice and open-ended questions and for questions based on words, numbers or graphics.
  • Prevent fraud: some students digitally discussed their answers (e.g. via facebook or whatsapp). Stating that this is officially fraud can prevent this.
  • Giving feedback: students had the possibility to receive feedback on their tests during the office hours. However, these office hours were scheduled at the same time as the office hours from another course.
  • Avoid that students can pass whilst they do not master the materials by only including the bonus if the grade on their final exam is 5,0 or higher.
  • Learning Catalytics shouldn’t be used for summative testing, because it’s not secure enough.
  • Ensure your Wi-Fi can take the load that is generated when all the students work on the formative test at the same time
  • Learning Catalytics also works on smartphones, but students lack oversight due to the small screens. Encourage students to bring laptops or tablets.
  • Students need to buy a licence (about €16 for a year), which can be used for an unlimited amount of courses.
  • Learning Catalytics has many more features. For example, they can also be used for questions during lectures to check whether students understood a topic.