Project introduction and background information
The content of the course is divided into small blocks. Each block is a separate topic which is supported by the computer programme. There are homework assignments that the students have to do and it is always directly related to the theory which was taught in the course. It is a small unit, unit of one or two lectures, covering the chapters in the book. The system is open for reviewing your own efforts. There is no extra bonus or extra credits for the final grade. However, we give credits to show students their performance. We have low threshold because we have found out from previous experience that only low threshold works. If a student finishes the homework with 35% – 40% it is enough to follow the classes and to stay in the system. This threshold shows that students do homework seriously with or without success. Below this threshold you can really see that these students drop out.
The system is all about regular participation. The final grade is completely covered by a written exam. In addition to digital homework assignments we have also 5 times digital test. It is a small test which is administrated by a computer. It is not compulsory but all students take this test. I also stress out the importance of these tests to find out their weak points, where they miss some knowledge. They can see where to return and start again to fix the problems. We do these 5 tests we combine with a workshop. The students work on their assignments for an hour in the computer room. We walk between them and assist them with tips and tricks. They can ask questions, too. Then we start the clock and they can do 20 min. test. We want to show them after studying one hour in this way what they can do. If you don’t work in this 1 hour, if you don’t ask questions, you will lose this hour. This year we did this approach second time and it was better than the last year. We have chosen the topics that are really trouble for the students to help them.
We have a computer programme which students should download and send their assignments. Via this programme students can work with or without internet. So, they can work on their homework while travelling… There is a deadline for the homework and they should send the assignment before the deadline.
One day before the lecture, I check the distribution of the answers of students, the week points and the difficulties students have. Then, the feedback for the homework is done in the class concentrating on the points where students have difficulties. Sometimes I give a clue to solve the problem and make them to think again to solve the problem. Sometimes I solve the complete problem showing all the steps. Therefore it is a mix feedback and it is different for each different group.
At the beginning the students complain that this a secondary school system and why they should do this. However a few weeks later they see the improvement and the effect of the system on their learning and the grades. In the second year we have limited number of assignments and they ask shouldn’t t we do more? In the second year we try to give them this responsibility. You should be aware that at a certain moment you have to leave steering and students have to do it themselves.
For civil engineering mechanical education digital exams are used.
To prevent drop out of students from Mechanics course. It is still one of the most effective system to keep the students on track. We are doing this already for 25 years. This is an effective system especially for 1styear students. We also use it in the 2nd year but with limited number of homework assignments. In the 1st year we have 2 assignments each week. They have 14 assignments. We do this for 7 weeks. They have to finish the homework assignments above the threshold then they can do the final exam. If they don’t do homework and if they are under this threshold they cannot do the final exam.
If we can make sure that a student on track, we see better results.
- It is proven to be an effective method. We have tested this method for many years. All the inactive students are really a small group now.
- Since we already split up the whole lecture series into small blocks combined with this homework we can also put into some kind of blended components to make it a really complete system. For this I have written a proposal few years ago. This is also something you can use for deficiencies. At the moment that students get into trouble them you can use this deficiency map they can star with some blended components.
- Digital final exam. At this moment it is impossible. Because this course requires students should draw graphs and figures, etc. These tools have been developed. So, I think in the future (5 years later may be) we are able to do final exam digital. After that we can use our time more effective, checking the exam, giving feedback to the students, etc. Now we spend many hours for checking the final exam.
It is not a system which you can just take and use in your courses. You really have to think about the whole set up. It is an integrated system. Sometimes the computer assisted systems are failing, because the teacher does not integrate it. It is about what you do in the lecture, you also have to activate the students in the lecture to start to do the assignments. Then they go home and they have a clear view about what is expected and how to handle this exercises. The solution strategy, how to do things are essential in the class. It is an integrated system and it need good preparation. You have to really think about the whole system; lecturing, exercises you show in the class, the feedback, how you want to do this. It takes few years before the system really works.
It requires knowledge about the programme you use. It should be taken into consideration before using this approach.