Continual Reinforcement and Practice Enhance Learner Success

Award Winner: 
2011 Sloan-C Effective Practice Award
Author Information
Jen Krueger
Kolleen Barnes
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Cuyahoga Community College
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 
Experience at Cuyahoga Community College's Captioning and Court Reporting Program has demonstrated that the court reporting skills students acquire during a course are often diminished due to a lack of regular practice between semesters.  Recognizing this learning development need, faculty members developed an online course site designed to provide reinforcement and skill-building exercises in a structured manner lasting the length of the semester break. Through the use of multimedia and interactive exercises, students maintained a regular practice schedule throughout the semester break. Humorous elements were incorporated throughout the break to engage students and make the voluntary use of the practice materials entertaining as well as educational. Students who participated displayed a higher level of skill retention than students who did not.
Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

The semester-break resource contained weekly modules each covering previously introduced stenotype writing principles and allowing for practice and skill retention. Students were additionally provided fresh material correlated to those lessons to challenge their ability to apply learned principles to new experiences. The modules were further broken down into daily activities to chunk the material into manageable segments. This promoted a feeling of success as students were able to accomplish each day's activities while they were on semester break. This also encouraged practice outside of regular course assignments which led to proficiency in their acquisition of skill.

Each day's assignments included the following: warm-up exercises, reinforcement of concepts, games and/or puzzles, skill-development drills, self-regulation activities, opportunities for interaction with fellow students to maintain a sense of camaraderie, and motivational messages and/or videos from instructors. These activities and exercises were presented using the adaptive-release feature in the learning management system.  This allowed activities to be sequentially released so that as students completed one activity, the next activity would appear. This sequential presentation of materials further supported the accumulation of skill. It also promoted a sense of curiosity for the students as they did not know what type of exercise or activity would be presented next. Faculty were also able to use this feature to track the number of individual exercises each student was completing.

The design of this resource allowed for learner autonomy as they could select which exercises and/or days they wished to complete as they managed their personal time during the break and worked to attain their own academic goals.  

The activities were varied and purposefully designed to increase motivation as students could see the relevance in what they were doing and identify improved writing skills.

The weekly modules were adapted to fit the length of each semester break to ensure replicability. The instructor could easily modify the activities available in the site to correspond with the length of any particular semester break.

The activities and exercises were created using a variety of multimedia resources incuding PowerPoint and screen captured presentations, videos, digitally recorded audio, and games and puzzles.

The instructors who designed this practice site utilized the announcement feature in the learning management system to provide students with the appearance of faculty presence through regular announcements. These were written before the start of the break and were scheduled to be released automatically.

The design of the site purposefully incorporated elements of humor as a means of engaging the students and encouraging their continued participation.

The varied activities were designed to meet the needs of individual learning styles and incorporated differentiated instruction based on the current skill level of the student.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 
This semester-break resource was first utilized in 2009 for a winter break and has been replicated since then for use during other semester breaks (spring and summer) for a total of six separate groups of students over six semester breaks from 2009- 2011.
Surveys of student satisfaction revealed an overwhelming appreciation for this resource. Student comments included the following: "I think the site was awesome...I had so much fun with the variety of exercises.  It was a great way to reinforce my skills over the break," and "I strongly believe that this site was wonderful. Being motivated and wondering what was on the lesson for the next day was definitely there."  The majority of surveyed students indicated that they practiced more than they would have without the resource and found it motivating to them.
Faculty tracked the progress of students who utilized the between-semesters sites and found that students who participated were better prepared for the next course. This was evidenced by the speed at which students could write upon their return from the break.  Students who utilized 60 or more of the 170 activities returned with an average writing speed of 53.8 words per minute.  Students who utilized fewer than 60 of the activities returned with an average writing speed of 38 words per minute. The 15 word-per-minute gain by those who more actively participated is evidence of the effectiveness of a resource to retain and enhance skills during semester breaks.
The semester-break course site improves Learning Effectiveness and Student Satisfaction.

For Learner Effectiveness
  • Students were better prepared for the next course evidenced by the fact that students who utilized 60 or more of the presented activities/exercises realized an average gain in writing speed of 15 words per minute more than students who completed fewer than 60 exercises or did not participate. These students were therefore better prepared to meet the course outcomes of the subsequent course.
  • Faculty recognized the higher level of skill acquisition by the students who utilized the practice site over the semester break and greater self-confidence in the student’s abilities.
  • The use of a semester-break site exceeds standards as it provides for learners to maintain and build on previously acquired knowledge and skills in a manner that is not currently in practice.
For Student Satisfaction
  • Considerable learner interaction was evidenced in the following ways:
    • Learner-to-content interaction was accomplished as learners accessed up to 170 different content-based activities
    • Learner-to-learner interaction was achieved through ongoing discussion board forums and instant messaging opportunities
    • Learner-to-instructor interaction was attained via emails, course announcements, and instructor-featured videos
  • Student satisfaction is highly rated as evidenced through feedback surveys.
    • 87.5% strongly agreed or agreed that they practice more over the break because of the practice than they would have without it.
    • 87.5% strongly agreed or agreed that the use of the activities and the exercises motivated them to practice over the break.
    • 100% found the site to be user friendly and easy to follow
  • Quotes from student participants:
    • It was a great way to reinforce my skills over the break!
    • Overall, I am so grateful that I had this over the break.  I used it A LOT!!!!! 
    • I would not have been able to keep myself motivated to practice over the break without it. Thank you.
    • I found areas of the theory that I definitely needed to review so thanks for making that possible. I feel more prepared to start Theory 2.
How does this practice relate to pillars?: 
Each of the five faculty members who were assigned to teach a class following the activity were surveyed regarding their level of satisfaction and their observations of the students upon the start of the next course.
  • 100% of the faculty reported greater satisfaction with the start of the new semester as less time was spent reviewing the previous semester's work.
  • 100% of the faculty experienced fewer student questions at the start of the new semester.
  • 100% of the faculty found students to be enthusiastic about returning to formal studies.  
  • 100% of the faculty asserted that the activity enabled classes to move forward more quickly than previously.

Faculty members' comments included the following, "I thought this was a terrific way for the students to maintain their skills and reinforce what they had learned;" "it was amazing to see the difference in the skill level of the students who utilized the Survival Site versus those who did not;" "I felt more satisfied with my work because I did not spend so much time reviewing things that my students had forgotten."

The current practice has demonstrated student satisfaction and learner effectiveness and would prove useful in other disciplines, particularly in skill-based environments where continual reinforcement and practice enhance learner success.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 
Blackboard, Flip camera for video creation, PowerPoint for presentations and games, Audacity for audio dictation files, Jing for screen-captured presentations.
Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 


References, supporting documents: 

Survey Results.  The survey from the initial offering of the practice is attached

Speed Tracking

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Jen Krueger
Email this contact:
Effective Practice Contact 2: 
Kolleen Barnes
Email contact 2: