LearnStar Empowers Texas Tech Students: Interactive Instructional Tool Dramatically Boosts Tests Scores and Learning

By Williams, G. Brock | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), September 2005 | Go to article overview

LearnStar Empowers Texas Tech Students: Interactive Instructional Tool Dramatically Boosts Tests Scores and Learning


Williams, G. Brock, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


A recent research study funded by a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (www.nsf.gov) and led by Texas Tech University, focused on the use of instructional technology tools in designated math, chemistry, and psychology courses in order to evaluate their success in increasing student learning, motivation, and test scores. The three-year study began on Sept. 1, 2003.

LearnStar (www.learnstar.com) technology has already been tested as part of the project, with results clearly demonstrating the tool's power to dramatically increase learning, as reflected in student test scores. The tool was used in Texas Tech courses during 2003 and 2004, with a combined test base of more than 1,500 students. The most telling data comes from a test group of 123 students in the Math 1351 Calculus I course who used it on a weekly basis to supplement traditional lectures and enhance their understanding of core mathematics principles. A control group of 42 students attended the same lectures but participated in conventional discussion sessions instead of using LearnStar; there was a significant increase in the exam scores for the LearnStar students over the control group.

For example, on the spring 2004 comprehensive departmental exam, the students who used LearnStar in the classroom received a test grade of 70.2 percent on average, compared to the control group whose grade averaged only 47.7 percent. Furthermore, students in the control group were not poor students in general; their SAT scores were nearly identical and their homework grades were actually higher (69.1 percent versus 67.2 percent) than students using LearnStar.

Interactive Instructional Tool

LearnStar is an educational software system that provides an interactive environment for enhanced learning in the classroom. The program can be used with a variety of handheld or laptop computers, in computer labs, or with LearnStar's wireless keypads. Assessment programs, such as tests and competitions, are led by a teacher using the LearnStar program, with students logging the answers to questions on their computers or keypads in a fun, interactive format. LearnStar content modules are available for a huge variety of courses, and teachers can also use the Editor to tailor activities to their own needs.

Students usually use LearnStar in a competitive format to answer timed, multiple-choice questions. The faster the correct response is given, the more points students earn. Students are naturally drawn into the excitement of the competitions, increasing their motivation to assimilate new ideas. LearnStar thus provides a stimulating and fun format for students to challenge themselves and enhance their learning of the course material.

In the Texas Tech calculus study, questions were displayed on a television or projector screen and students logged their answers on the 900MHz LearnStar keypads. A teacher station was connected to the television or projector to allow the teacher to pause the program and provide explanations when too many students missed a question. …

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