Quality in Course Design & Impact on Student Achievement

Author Information
Jean Runyon
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
College of Southern Maryland
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

Adding classroom assessment techniques (CATs) to each module of an online course engaged students to to assess their learning more frequently throughout the course. Reorganizing the course using the Quality Matters rubric and creating a Learning Guide enabled students to access content with greater frequency during the course.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

Ms. Runyon and co-teacher Tom Gorecki conducted a research study as part of the Quality Matters project. The goal of the project was to investigate the impact of learner-content interaction on student achievement. This project aimed to study learner-content interaction, determine whether learner-content interaction related to student achievement, and examine whether the level of learner-content interaction was a predictor of course completion. Design issues are seen as crucial to the development of course content in an online course. Instructional materials developed must be “sufficiently comprehensive to achieve announced objectives and learning outcomes” (QM Rubric, IV), and the effective design of learner-content interaction is essential to learner motivation, intellectual commitment (QM Rubric, V) and, ultimately, student achievement.

Methodology: Each learning module of the large enrollment (100+ students per year) information technology course was revised in 3 ways: 1) creation of a Learning Guide (explicit roadmap), 2) reorganized presentation and design, and 3) addition of classroom assessment techniques (CATs) in each course module. WebCT’s Track Student functions were used to document student interaction with various aspects of the online classroom, in the course both before and after the redesign.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Outcomes: More students accessed the content to a greater extent in the redesigned course. In addition, more students received a grade of A and fewer students received a grade of F in the course. The higher level of student-content interaction is arguably a sign of improved access The study found a positive relationship between learner-content interaction and student achievement, but it did not provide results about whether the level of learner-content interaction was a predictor of course completion.

Although there was concern that students would find the additional assessment activities to be onerous busywork, anecdotal evidence indicates that in fact the opposite occurred: the students welcomed the opportunity to participate in activities to assess their learning more frequently throughout the course.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Jean Runyon