Viewable Answers Online Don’t Keep Students From Trying

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

A recent study presented at Technology-Related Educational Research has looked at modern online learning materials that make answers viewable to students in an attempt to encourage learning. The purpose was to discover whether students will make a real attempt at answering the questions without simply looking at the solution.

Researchers looked at data from 550 students in four classes, at a four-year public research university, a four-year public teaching college, and two community colleges.

The study, “Will Students Earnestly Attempt Learning Questions if Answers are Viewable?” found that 84% of students to make a real, honest attempt at answering the questions before clicking the button to view the answer.  Of that group, 89% made an earnest attempt to answer 60%-100% of the questions, while 73% made a good attempt at 80%-100%.  Only 1% of students were found to “cheat the system” by trying to answer just 20% of the questions.

Researchers concluded that students typically do take advantage of learning materials at their disposal in an attempt to truly understand the material rather than just quickly earning points.

The findings did suggest that student earnestness decreased with course progression.  Researchers attribute this to being tired or another student factor rather than the increasing level of difficulty in the course material.  In addition, analyzing per-question earnestness was found to help those who write the questions determine which are poorly written.

The paper also discusses the style in which the questions were written, including how they complement text, teach instead of test, take just a small amount of time to complete, include explanations, avoid the “drill/kill” model, or seek to “trick” students on occasion to dispel common misconceptions.  In addition, it was noted that each question tries to teach students a unique concept.  It is through this design that the authors suggest that the students feel the questions are worthy of their time and effort, causing more students to try to answer them on their own.

The authors go on to discuss methods that could cause students to not try as earnestly including the assignment of excessive work.

Study authors include Joshua Sai Yuen, Dr. Alex Daniel Edgcomb, and Professor Frank Vahid, all of the University of California at Riverside.

The full study will be made available to the public on July 29, 2016 after the completion of the 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition.

Founded in 1893, the American Society for Engineering Education is a nonprofit organization of individuals and institutions that seek to further education in engineering and engineering technology.  Policies and programs are developed by ASEE that increase professional opportunities for engineering faculty members, as well as promotes activities that hope to increase student enrollment in engineering and engineering technology colleges and universities.

In addition, ASEE supports communication between corporations, government agencies, and educational institutions.  The organization boasts over 12,000 members, including deans, department heads, faculty members, students, and government and industry representatives.  In total, 400 engineering and engineering technology colleges and affiliates are included as members, as well as over 50 corporations, government agencies, and professional associations.