From Diversifying Economic Quality: A Wiki for Instructors and Departments
In large classes, it can often be difficult to encourage student participation and incorporate inquiry-based learning into the curriculum. Encouraging classroom interaction is much more difficult when there are 250+ students in a large lecture hall. A 2008 study (Iaria & Hubball, 2008) of two medical classes, one with 17 students and one with 150, found that the ratio of student participation in class discussions dropped significantly from 15/17 in the small class to only 3/150 in the large class, even though both classes gave students the same types of opportunities to be involved in active discussion. When class sizes are this large, online teaching modules can be an effective supplement to in-class lectures. Research (Nguyen & Trimarchi, 2010) has shown that using online modules to supplement large introductory microeconomics and macroeconomics lecture classes results in higher comprehension of material.
What is an Online Teaching Module?
Online teaching modules provide:
- Supplementary discussion of topics covered in the lecture and textbooks
- Review modules that allow students to self-test and assess their own progress on concept. This review process gives students individual attention and immediate feedback on their skills.
- Communication modules which allow class discussion on online forums. This is particularly beneficial in large classes where in-class discussion is hard to facilitate.
- Online experiments and games for students to apply the concepts they learn in class
- Ability to use pre-made exercises or create your own exercises
Aplia and MyEconLab are examples of online teaching tools available to economics instructors. As described in Nguyen and Trimarchi's 2010 analysis of online modules: "The MyEconLab web site has separate work areas for students and instructors. For students, there are learning modules to explain course materials with computer graphics, multimedia content, and numerical calculations. There are also planning and review modules (calendar, study plan, homework, quizzes and tests) to coach students into the habit of active learning mode with regular practice exercises for tryouts as well as real quizzes and tests for marks. In particular, the result module provides instant feedback on student progress which is much faster than the traditional manual marking by instructors or teaching assistants."
Active Learning in Introductory Economics: Do MyEconLab and Aplia Make Any Difference?- Nguyen & Trimarchi, 2010.
This study examined the effects of the online programs MyEconLab and Aplia on student performance in introductory economics class. This research took place at a university with 12 introductory microeconomics courses including a total of 2,629 students and 6 introductory macroeconomics courses including a total of 1,392 students. The study used the microeconomics courses to test the effects of MyEconLab and the macroeconomics courses to test Aplia. In some of the courses, students were given the option of using an online module. The end grades of these students were compared to the grades of students in identical courses who were not given the option of using MyEconLab or Aplia. In both cases, the final grades of classes using online modules were 2% higher (significant at a 0.05 level) than the control classes. These results indicate that even optional use of online modules increases student's understanding of economics concepts. Surveys of student's reactions to the use of online modules showed that the majority of students felt that these programs were helpful, particularly for understanding theory and applying them to novel assignments
This study can be accessed here
Requiring a Math Skills Unit: Results of a Randomized Experiment- Pozo and Stull, 2006
This study looked at the effects of an online math module on test scores in introductory economics courses. Before taking an introductory economics course, students were either required or recommended that they take a diagnostic math test, work through online math tutorials, and take a post-course math test. The treatment group was required to take these tests and was told that the higher of the two grades would factor into their final grade for the course. In contrast, the control group was merely encouraged to take these online tests or tutorials, but told these tests would not affect their final grade. The researchers were interested in the effects of requiring an online math unit on final grades in an economics course. They found that the online unit changed the distribution of grades: the range of scores in the treatment was narrower than in the control and the left tail (low scores) was compressed. "Total class score results... indicate that the experimental group outperformed the control group by almost 3 percentage points with statistical significan[ce] at the 2-percent level."
This study can be accessed here.
Iaria, G., & Hubball, H. (2008). Assessing student engagement in small and large classes. Transformation Dialogues: Teaching and Learning Journal, 2(1), 1–8.
Nguyen, T., & Trimarchi, A. (2010). Active Learning in Introductory Economics: Do MyEconLab and Aplia Make Any Difference? International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 1-18.
Pozo, S., & Stull, C. A. (2006). Requiring a math skill unit: Results of a randomized experiment. American Economic Review, 96(2), 437–441.