The Community of Educational Technology Support works to improve teaching and learning on campus through networking, collaboration, sharing expertise and resources, and advocacy.
The ComETS Cornerstones help guide conversations and community activities:
- Emerging Trends
- Professional Development
- Advocacy, Leadership and Engagement
- Networking and Collaboration
Recent blog posts
by Megan O'Neil
The Chronicle of Higher Education
January 15, 2014
A Simple Software Program Improves Graduation Rates at Purdue
by Kristen Hicks
January 13, 2014
Technology helps us wake up in the morning. It helps people stick to workout routines, keep appointments, and create and follow daily to do lists. Should we be surprised that a simple technology could be used to help students take more initiative in school and develop better study habits?
Since 2007, Purdue University has given professors the option to use software called Signals in their courses. The role the software plays is simple: several times throughout the course, based on several metrics of how the student is performing, the professor will update a traffic light displayed on the student’s course website to show a green, yellow or red light.
Students who see their light change will have an immediate gauge on their performance and know whether they need to step up their efforts to succeed in the course. Professors can also choose to include a note along with the update, perhaps reminding a student whose performance is slipping about the extra study sessions available.
While it seems so basic, it really makes a difference. In the same way that someone who has a hard time getting a workout routine started may finally find just what they need in the right smartphone app; for a student who wants to perform well, but just hasn’t figured out the right habits, an early warning system can be just the fix to get them on track.
Purdue researchers aren’t just trusting their gut on this one, the data they’ve collected in the last 5 years bears this out. Students enrolled in only one class that uses Signals show a 20.87% increase in graduation rates. Make it two or more, and the results jump to a 24.36% increase.
One question this raises is: why should there be a need for this? Shouldn’t students be able to take initiative on their own, without a technological crutch? For that matter, shouldn’t professors be able to recognize when a student is falling behind and intercede, without needing data collected from online sources and a symbolic messaging system to do it for them? Ok, maybe that’s three related questions.
Higher education comes with its share of “shoulds.” If the end goal is teaching students how to learn, giving them good habits for doing so, and equipping them with the knowledge they need to succeed in the world, does it really matter what tools you use along the way to get them there?
In larger classes, professors can’t reasonably track the progress of each individual student on a regular basis. While students should be able to recognize when they’re having trouble and be comfortable asking for help, that just isn’t always the case.
Signals is helping overcome obstacles that are causing students to fall through the cracks or give up entirely. Who knew the answer could be as easy as a personalized stop sign?
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