Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Online Homework and Student Achievement in a Large Enrollment Introductory Science Course

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Online Homework and Student Achievement in a Large Enrollment Introductory Science Course

Article excerpt

For many years, educators have looked at online homework systems to engage students in large enrollment introductory science courses. These systems remove the burden of collecting and grading the mass of paper, when homework is required, and provide immediate turnaround with feedback on the answers. They also provide unique opportunities to emphasize areas known to cause difficulties for students, such as visualizing at the molecular level and learning to relate different representations of specific concepts at the macroscopic, molecular, symbolic, and graphical levels in ways that are not possible using paper and pencil (Kozma and Russell 1997). Students can be given exercises or exploratory activities that require them to convert one form of representation to another, to reflect on the underlying meaning of each representation, and to see how representations function to support the solution of quantitative problems. The problems can include a range of question templates containing multiple parameterizations of variables so that there is continuous generation of random problem sets that can be personalized for each student. Thus, students can repeat units multiple times with virtually an unlimited pool of questions to work with. For instructors, the online homework system offers an affordable alternative to efficiently manage personalized homework in large scale with instant turnaround. It also provides early feedback on student learning that can allow for changes in instructional methodologies or clarification of critical concepts during instruction.

Although these developments provide a stimulating learning environment for students, there is still a need for quantitative research-based data on the impact of online homework on student achievement. For example, most of the literature on online homework in general chemistry courses has dealt with how the courses were structured (Hunter 2000; Hall et al. 2001; Freasier, Collins, and Newitt 2003; Cole and Todd 2003, Penn, Nedeff, and Gozdzik 2000) or how the server-based system itself was structured (Spain 1996; Smith and Stovall 1996; Charlesworth and Vician 2003; Chamala et al. 2006). A few have provided evaluations of student learning outcomes (Fisher and Holme 2000; Chamala et al. 2006), and these studies revealed substantially weak correlations between online homework and student performance on examinations. Other comparative studies (Cole and Todd 2003) found that there were no significant differences in examination scores between classes that used online homework and those that used text-based homework in the traditional written format. Related studies in physics education revealed no significant difference in examination scores between students who completed standard end-of-chapter exercises as online homework and those who completed comparable exercises as paper-based homework (Bonham, Beichner, and Deardorff 2001; Bonham, Deardorff, and Beichner 2003). Another study (Dufresne et al. 2002) found that one of four participating instructors observed a statistically significant gain in exam performance after replacing paper-based homework with online homework, whereas the other three instructors observed no significant gain. Other qualitative studies (Pascarella 2004) found that online homework encouraged physics students to favor a guess-and-check strategy using multiple submissions of answers instead of carefully reasoning through a problem. This lack of consensus on the effectiveness of online homework highlights the need for further investigations.

A previous study (Arasasingham et al. 2005) compared the performance of classes that used an online system called Mastering Chemistry on the Web (MCWeb; the software program is commercially available as Catalyst. See www.wiley.com//college/catalyst/catalyst_g/ for information on MCWeb or Catalyst) as homework with those who used the traditional text-based homework. Several assessments revealed significantly better performance by the students in the online homework group over the control group. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.