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Journal Article

Help! Active Student Learning and Error Remediation in an Online Calculus e‑Help Community  pp227-238

Carla van de Sande, Gaea Leinhardt

© Apr 2010 Volume 5 Issue 3, ICEL 2007, Editor: Shirley Williams, pp173 - 250

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Abstract

Free, open, online homework help sites appear to be extremely popular and exist for many school subjects. Students can anonymously post problems at their convenience and receive responses from forum members. This mode of tutoring may be especially critical for school subjects such as calculus that are intrinsically challenging and have high attrition rates. However, educational research has focused on tutoring sessions that instruct students on a pre‑determined set of material or topics, and there has been no systematic research on these dynamic, free, open, online tutoring communities. In order to distinguish the student‑initiated e‑help episodes from traditional tutoring sessions, we refer to them as "tutorettes." Each tutorette was assigned a participation code that contained information on the number of contributions by each participant, the sequence of contributions, and the number of different participants. Student problem solving activity, defined by mathematical contributions and efforts, was measured for initial postings and for subsequent contributions. Finally, each tutorette was examined for evidence of mathematical errors and these were classified according to type: pre‑calculus, operational, and conceptual. A tutorette on the limit concept is provided to demonstrate how mathematical queries are resolved in an SOH e‑help community. Participation and problem solving attempts provided evidence of active student learning. Instead of simply using the tutors to do their homework, many students made initial attempts at solutions, queried tutor responses, and applied the help they received to make progress on solving problems. This behaviour appeared to be influenced by the actions of the tutor: Providing solution sketches accompanied by asking direct questions encouraged dialogue, whereas providing quasi‑complete worked solutions seemed to have the opposite effect. In contrast to classroom instruction, students in this e‑help community appeared comfortable in presenting incorrect work and tutors were open and forthright in their commentaries, evaluations, and explanations. In addition, tutors modulated their responses according to the type of error. Pre‑calculus errors and operational (calculus) errors were not accorded the same depth of explanation as conceptual misunderstandings.

 

Keywords: tutoring, e-help communities, discussion forums, calculus tutoring

 

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Journal Article

Eating Your Lectures and Having Them too: is Online Lecture Availability Especially Helpful in "Skills‑Based" Courses?  pp281-288

Steve Joordens, Ada Le, Raymond Grinnell, Sophie Chrysostomou

© Dec 2009 Volume 7 Issue 3, Special ICEL 2009 Issue, Editor: Florin Salajan and Avi Hyman, pp191 - 316

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Abstract

At the University of Toronto at Scarborough, we provide enhanced flexibility to our students using a blended learning approach (i.e., the webOption) whereby classes are videotaped as they are offered in a traditional manner, then posted online for subsequent student access. Students can attend lectures live, watch them online at their convenience, or both. Previous research examining the webOption in the context of Introductory Psychology revealed that (a) students were satisfied with the webOption in general, (b) students used and appreciated the pause and seek features afforded by the webOption interface, and (c) those who used the pause and seek features performed slightly better on exams (Bassili & Joordens, 2008). The current research examines similar issues in the context of two mathematics courses. These courses differ from the lecture‑based Introductory Psychology class in their emphasis on the teaching of mathematical proofs; cognitive skills that, like any other skill, are enhanced with practice (Schneider & Shiffrin, 1977). Access to online lectures allows students to re‑experience the professor as they teach these skills. Given this, the webOption might be especially potent in these learning contexts. Surprisingly, the results we report here do not confirm that prediction. Students do use and appreciate the features of the webOption as was the case in our previous work, but those students who augmented their class attendance with online viewing, and those who used the lecture‑ control features the most, were actually the students who performed most poorly. Said another way, those students who had the most trouble with the course did indeed use the webOption as a way of understanding the material better but, interestingly, doing so did not result in better performance. Several possible reasons for this surprising result are considered.

 

Keywords: online lectures, webOption, calculus, performance, surface versus deep learning

 

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