Testing the Efficacy of Reverse Learning as a Teaching and Learning Method Using an Interactive Multimedia Computer Program

Article excerpt

Abstract

A Computer Interactive Multimedia Program for Learning Enhancement (CIMPLE) program was developed to enhance learning in an introductory agronomy course at Iowa State University. CIMPLE includes learner objectives, digitized tutorial video, key concepts, practice learning exercises, and self diagnostic quizzes. The self-assessment components are for students to quiz themselves over material presumably after having studied the material. Several students however started with the learning assessment programs, to test their initial level of understanding of material before studying, a process coined "reverse learning." To assess the concept of reverse learning, students were divided into one of three learning strategies: 1) students used the textbook, did not use CIMPLE and then took graded quizzes; 2) students used CIMPLE and the textbook and then took the graded quizzes; and 3) students first did the non-graded self-assessments on CIMPLE, then used CIMPLE and the text, and then took the graded quizzes (reverse learning). There was no significant grade difference across the three learning strategies. Grade performance was not influenced by learning style regardless of learning strategy. Students with different learning styles within a learning strategy had similar grade performance. While our results do not show that reverse learning is statistically better than the other learning strategies we tested, they do show that students using that strategy learn, on average, as well students using more traditional strategies.

Introduction

At Iowa State University, the introductory course, Principles in Agronomy, serves as a foundation course in sustainable crop production to undergraduate students in several majors, including Agronomy, Horticulture, Animal Science, Ag Business, and Ag Education. Generally 300 students annually enroll in the three-credit Agronomy course (Agron 114). The primary focus of the course is to introduce material that will help students understand the science and strategies underlying crop-based agriculture and soil management. Consequently, the course covers a variety of subjects including; plant anatomy, plant classification and identification, physiology, climate, soil and soil water, tillage, plant breeding, seed/grain quality, weed, insect and disease management, and crop harvesting and storage.

Historically, the learning activities that have been used in Agron 114 included greenhouse experiments, a weekly discussion, and visual and hands-on lab displays. We recently completed the development of an interactive computer program, the Computer Interactive Multimedia Program for Learning Enhancement (CIMPLE), to provide students computer-based learning programs to supplement students' lab experiences as listed above. The CIMPLE program is comprised of seven components (see Table 1).

While much attention has been placed on Web-based instruction, the use of computer-based tutorial systems has also been shown to effectively help students learn in a natural resource related course (Seller, et al., 2002). Students use different learning styles in their learning process (KoIb, 1981, 1984). It is not known whether students who prefer specific learning styles benefit, or are hindered, by computer-based learning systems, or whether there is a preferred sequence of using computer program components.

The concept of reverse learning was coined during the initial use of CIMPLE when we recognized that students used the computer program components differently than we had anticipated. The self-assessment component of the computer program was developed so that students could quiz themselves over course material, presumably after they had studied the material through formal means (i.e. reading text, attending lectures, using computer aided instructional units). On several occasions, however we observed some students started first with the learning assessment programs, presumably to test their initial logic and level of understanding of material. …