The web-based homework quizzes have been positively received by the students in the class who appear to be more engaged in the subject matter and appear to be achieving higher test scores and have better understanding of the difficult material in the course.
impact statement issue
A traditional lecture format tends to promote passive listening rather than active learning. We wanted to develop a mechanism for ensuring active learning as a follow-up to our lectures in Introduction to Neurobiology, a sophomore level course which is part of the Neurobiology and Behavior core curriculum.
impact statement response
In 2009, we instituted a weekly web quiz on the previous week's lecture material. Web quizzes were administered through the Blackboard system. Questions were carefully screened by the faculty, and made available for five days per week immediately following a week of lectures. Students had ample opportunity to take the quizzes multiple times and to consult with faculty and TAs while learning concepts. It became a weekly exercise that motivated students to keep up, practice problem solving, and get instantaneous feedback.
The response has been strong and favorable: students now attend office hours, form study groups, and keep up with the course material. It has encouraged regular and more even study over the semester. In the second year, four undergraduates came back to the course to volunteer to lead study groups for 40 students.
impact statement summary
Students in the life sciences often take science courses taught in a traditional lecture format during their first two years. We know that students appreciate a good lecture that explains concepts well and provides a good overview of a complex topic, but we also know that students need to work through problems related to the lecture on their own time.
Therefore, we have developed a system of web-based weekly quizzes on the most important material taught in the course that motivates students with challenging questions. The web quizzes have had a dramatic effect on student involvement in the course through office hour attendance, participation in study groups, and attendance at review sessions.