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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Learning So Fast You'll Freak: The Effect of Immersion on Online Learning Success

Michael R. Brudzinski (Miami University, USA)
Additional Authors
Stefany Sit (University of Illinois at Chicago, USA)
Session Information
October 16, 2015 - 10:45am
Learning Effectiveness
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Northern Hemisphere A3
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 10

The compressed, immersive format improves student learning in online courses based on validated measures of learning outcomes.

Extended Abstract

In this session, I will make the case for the compressed, immersive format to improve student learning in online courses based on validated measures of learning outcomes. I will primarily use our case study of course revisions to larger enrollment (50+) introductory undergraduate geology courses since 2007 that were evaluated with the Geoscience Concept Inventory (GCI) (Brudzinski and Sikorski, 2010). The GCI is a set of conceptually based questions developed by geosciences education researchers (Libarkin and Anderson, 2005) and has been evaluated and validated using item analysis techniques from both classical test theory and item response theory. The impact of a course on student performance is estimated by calculating the normalized improvement, comparing end of course GCI scores with start of course GCI scores for each student.

There were increased student performance gains that are both large and statistically significant following each of our main course revisions: from courses with a traditional lecture-based approach (9.2 ? 1.0%) to courses with an active learning revision (17.2 ? 0.8%), and then from those classroom-based active learning to courses with active learning delivered as hybrid or fully online (24.5 ? 2.0%). The improvements have been interpreted to be due to purposeful re-design of the courses to focus more on student engagement. The change to the e-learning format involved developing a wide range of new course components including: assignments each class period with automatic grading and feedback, regular use of software (Google Earth and Microsoft Excel) with video tutorials, and more realistic scientific investigations using authentic data downloaded from the internet. Yet there is also an opportunity to isolate the impact of immersion in these courses, as the fully online versions of the course have been offered in both a traditional 15-week semester and a 3-week winter term, with essentially no change in course design other than the time frame. The GCI results indicate that student performance in the compressed 3 week course (30.3 ? 3.6%) was considerably higher than that in the 15 week course (19.7 ? 3.6%). Since the GCI is constructed to assess the understanding of fundamental geologic concepts, the results demonstrate evidence for gains in content mastery.

Furthermore, GCI results have been shown to have a positive correlation with other critical thinking assessment tools (McConnell et al., 2003), so these results also suggest improvements in students' critical thinking abilities. These results indicate that institutions should consider focusing their e-learning efforts outside of the traditional 15-week semesters when compressed, immersive courses can be offered more readily. Moreover, students at traditionally residential universities are often seeking to enroll in online courses outside the regular semesters when they are typically away from campus. I intend to present this work utilizing classroom response devices I would provide, to help engage the audience and demonstrate the assignments from the immersive online courses.

Lead Presenter

Prof. Brudzinski earned a Ph.D. in Geophysics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed an endowed postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before joining Miami University in 2004. His scientific research is focused on the origins of hazardous earthquakes. He has maintained nearly a decade-long field experiment in southern Mexico to investigate how colliding tectonic plates generate devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. He is also helping to uncover relationships between enhanced oil and gas recovery and earthquakes in the central and eastern US, focusing on recent seismicity in Ohio and Oklahoma. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Time Magazine, and in an appearance on the Glenn Beck TV Show.

Brudzinski's educational focus is on developing active e-learning courses through assessment of inquiry-based learning, student engagement, and authentic scientific experiences in computer-enabled classrooms. He has generated over $1.3 million in external funding at Miami to support the integration of research and teaching efforts, including a National Science Foundation Early CAREER Award. He has mentored over 20 students and postdocs resulting in national presentations, publications, and over $400K of student/postdoc led funding and awards.