Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Grades Difference before and after Using an Online Interactive Homework System-A Case Study in Teaching Economics at Alabama State University

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Grades Difference before and after Using an Online Interactive Homework System-A Case Study in Teaching Economics at Alabama State University

Article excerpt


Over time, much has changed and evolved in education and teaching techniques. The age of chalk and blackboard allowed students to take notes and highlight key concepts; however, this old-school teaching-learning process was constrained rigorously by the lack of creativity. Without enough diversification in learning and practicing, students always feel difficulty in fully understanding what they learned in the classroom. These troubles consequently cause frustrations, which will discourage students' incentives and interests.

The combination of teaching and modern technologies has started ever since the late 20th century, when the use of computer technology and internet started to be applied widely. This also brought profound influence on teaching at all levels. In Vachris (1999) and Coates et al. (2004), the authors analyzed the effectiveness and potential problems of online teaching of Economics at various universities including Christopher Newport University, SUNY Oswego and University of Maryland. The importance of internet technology and how it should be included in the teaching of Economics have also been discussed thoroughly in Agarwal and Bay (1998), Katz and Becker (1999), and Becker (2000). Besides economics, the teaching of many other subjects has also been profoundly influenced by various online applications and it has received plenty of attention ever since the beginning of the 21st century (Bates and Poole, 2003; Switzer and Csapo, 2005; Lawless and Pellegrino, 2007; Bolliger and Wasilik, 2009; Dede and Richards, 2012).

As we can find from all these studies, educators have always been searching for a better way to motivate students. Finding an effective homework system, for example, is one of the proposed solutions. How can students' learning interests be stimulated? This new system should be refreshing, eye-catching, and convenient. With a high-tech design and user-friendly interface, both students and teachers can benefit greatly from it. The entire teaching-learning process, therefore, becomes more efficient and better fits our education goals.

Sapling Learning is a good example of this advanced homework program. Being Internetbased, it allows students round-the-clock access to their online assignments and tutorials. It provides various types of questions: multiple choice, matching, and calculation, as well as figure drawing. Featuring an attractive layout, the assignments present diversified methods for the students to practice, study, and truly understand what they have learned. As a result, students feel more attracted and excited, with learning willingness and motivation.

Sapling Learning also brought a great advantage to the teachers as well. Its online test banks include a vast ocean of questions at different difficulty levels, with abundant flexibility in designing homework; immediate help from professional teaching assistants makes things even easier. The grading system offers alterative options; teachers can choose how many times the questions can be accessed and how many points will be deducted each time an incorrect answer is entered.

Moreover, it provides accurate feedback on students' work. Upon the completion of each question, a detailed explanation will also be given to help the students fully understand what the relevant knowledge is, as well as how to apply it appropriately. This instant feedback greatly enhances students' impressions of their exercises, as well as how to apply practically their knowledge.

In the College of Business Administration (COBA) at Alabama State University, we started using Sapling Learning during the Spring Semester in 2013. To be specific, the courses are preliminary, such as Principles of Economics I (Principles of Macroeconomics) and II (Principles of Microeconomics). The reason we chose these courses is because they are required for all business majors. Therefore, it avoids potential selection bias. …

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