Influence of Feedback Devices on Student Engagement and Faculty Practice (Principal Investigator, USC UPIRB # UP-09-00411)

The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of using Poll Everywhere on student engagement (behavioral, emotional, and cognitive), expectancy-value, and instructor’s success in revising the course content based on the polling data. One of the main problems with the traditional lecture format is that students’ level of engagement is low and therefore, their learning may also suffer. In the past 5 years, technology has started to be applied in the lecture halls to address this issue. Specifically, the use of electronic feedback devices (also called electronic voting systems or clickers, herein called “clickers”) is becoming more common in academic settings, especially at the higher education level (Gilbert, 2005). Clickers are small, portable devices that use infrared or radio frequency technology to transmit and record student responses to questions. Clickers provide instantaneous feedback to the instructor—and the students—about the level of understandings of the material being presented.

However, the limitation of clickers is that the instructors can only conduct polling during the lecture, as the connection of the clickers is based on a live session. In addition, students can poll their answers from only “clickers”. With the introduction of Poll Everywhere, students may poll their answers before, during, and/or after the lecture via various devices such as mobile browser, text message, or desktop/laptop browser, providing flexibility to instructors who want to integrate different pedagogies with the curriculum. For example, instructors can post questions on Poll Everywhere prior to the class and modify the learning activities based on the results of student polling answers, which may in turn facilitate just-in-time teaching.


Evaluation Study of USC Blogfolio for Writing Class (Principal Investigator, USC UPIRB # UP-09-00244)

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of the University of Southern California’s (USC) customized blog and e-portfolio (“blogfolio”) platform, designed by USC’s Web Services and USC’s Center for Scholarly Technology relying on the Movable Type software. This online resource, being piloted in several sections of an advanced undergraduate writing course, is a constituent part of the curriculum. Each student maintains an individual blog that is thematically governed by his or her academic discipline and/or future profession, with the objectives to facilitate students’ skills in research, writing, and critical thinking; enhance students’ information sharing, reputation building, and personal expression; and advance students’ academic and career goals by having them take positions on topics in their fields and of their choosing that are current, interesting, important, and not obvious or already known, as well as having them interact with others in their field (often people of stature) by leaving comments on recent blog entries written by those individuals.

There has been much work done on digital or Web-based portfolios in higher education (Cambridge, Cambridge, & Yancey, 2008; Jafari & Kaufman, 2006). However, little has been devoted to assessing what some have called the “next generation” of e-portfolios that merge social networking feature sets like blogging with an online evidence showroom. The results of this study can be interpreted to support the idea behind e-portfolios, which is that this technique may help students to establish and project a scholarly and professional identity online that advances their academic and career goals (Stephens & Moore, 2006). The USC blogfolio did not seem to increase student interest in writing because students might appreciate other resources more when it comes to the value in helping to improve their writing skills. However, pre- and posttest results suggested that the blogfolio helped soon-to-be-graduated students reconfirm their career goals as well as empowered students to share their online identities in a blogging environment, branded and hosted by USC. The results of this study have begun to identify areas of research that can address the effectiveness of blogfolios on student career development.


Motivational Influences in Distance Education: The Role of Interest, Self-Efficacy, and Self-Regulation (Principal Investigator, USC UPIRB # UP-08-00290)

This study investigates possible relationships among motivational and learning variables (interest, self-efficacy, and self-regulation) and three types of student engagement (behavioral engagement, emotional engagement, and cognitive engagement) in a distance education setting. Participants were 203 students enrolled in online classes in the fall semester of 2008 in the Schools of Gerontology and Engineering at a large research university in the southwestern U.S. who completed an online survey assessing their levels of situational interest, computer self-efficacy, self-regulation, and engagement in distance education.

Distance education technology allows students to take advantage of the convenience and flexibility of taking classes at the times and locations they prefer. Although distance education is convenient and can potentially employ rich multimedia materials, there are unresolved issues related to students’ engagement. Unlike the environment in traditional educational settings, distance education instructors are not physically present in the classroom, so students tend to lack opportunities to interact and collaborate with instructors and be less engaged in learning activities (Tuckman, 2007). Given the drawbacks associated with limited supervision of and access to students, it would be useful for distance education instructors and designers to have a better understanding of what factors influence student engagement.

Previous research has indicated that motivational factors are positively linked to student engagement levels (Bates & Khasawneh, 2007; Dembo, Junge, & Lynch, 2006; Kanuka, 2005). This study sought to further explore how these factors may influence specific types of engagement. The three types of engagement (behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement) identified by Fredricks and colleagues (2004) were used to frame the investigation of engagement issues. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore the motivational and learning variables (interest, self-efficacy, and self-regulation) and their effects on student engagement in the distance learning setting.

Situational interest and self-regulation were found to be significantly correlated with three types of engagement (behavioral, emotional, and cognitive), while computer self-efficacy did not appear to be associated with any of those engagement variables. Results suggested that online activities and tools such as multimedia and discussion boards may increase emotional engagement in online learning, although they do not necessarily increase behavioral or cognitive engagement; that educators should identify students who are taking online courses for the first time and provide necessary technical help to increase their emotional engagement; and that it is important for educators to offer students strategies for increasing their self-regulation in distance education environments.


Learning Behavior and Motivation of College Freshmen in a Self-Regulatory Learning Class (Co-Investigator, USC UPIRB# UP-09-00092)

The purpose of this study is to explore motivational characteristics and learning behavior affecting college freshmen and their impact on students’ academic achievement. In order to explore how motivation and learning behavior are related to academic achievement, this study proposes a series of hypotheses on the relationships between learning and study strategies indicators such as anxiety, time management, motivation, and self-efficacy and academic outcomes. The data were gathered from students who participate in an introductory education psychology class, EDPT 110: Motivation and Learning Strategies, during the Spring, Summer and Fall 2009/2010 semesters, and multivariate statistical analysis and path analysis will be employed to quantitatively capture the relationships between these constructs. Mid-semester and final grades will also be collected at the end of each semester. The EDPT 110 course applies cognitive psychology along with motivation theory and research to improve students’ learning in different academic disciplines. As all of the students in this class are freshmen, this study seeks to examine motivational characteristics, learning behavior, and academic achievement of this particular group.

Previous research has shown some factors influencing students’ motivation, self-efficacy, learning behaviors, and academic achievement. For examples, Bandura’s (1986) social cognitive theory advocates that lower anxiety produces higher self-efficacy. In the social cognitive view, students’ prior experiences such as previous success or failure may significantly influence students’ self-efficacy (Bandura, 2001). This study aims to further explore these variables and their effect specifically in college freshmen. At the end of this study, it is hoped that the results of this study can be translated into strategies for improving potential motivational problems associated with college freshmen and creating a more engaging experience for students involved in the college classes.


Evaluation Study of Online Multimedia Teaching Tool (OMTT) for Neurobiology (Developer, USC UPIRB # UP-08-00211)

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of an interactive online multimedia-teaching tool (OMTT) for teaching undergraduate neurosciences. Both an instructional tool and a course development tool, the OMTT is intended to enhance student learning and scientific literacy. I developed the OMTT in conjunction with others and the tool received a grant from the National Science Foundation to add an assessment component to the existing educational tool.

Specifically, the study investigates whether use of OMTT: increases students’ knowledge of science; is beneficial to underrepresented students; improves students’ understanding of the connection between research and science education; and, leads to increased recruitment and retainment of undergraduates in the sciences.