Alta User Story – Shawn Shields
Germanna Community College
Why did you choose alta?
I chose alta in my class because of the adaptive functionality and the low cost to students. It has always been a balancing act to assign enough homework so that the broad range of students in my classes get enough practice without creating extra “busywork.”
How did you use alta?
We used alta along with the free OpenStax chemistry textbook. Alta (homework) was worth 26% of the final grade, not including exams. Midterm exams (3) were worth 25%, the final exam was worth 21%, simulation “wet” labs and (guided-inquiry) “dry” labs together were worth 28% of the total grade. Exams were given through alta.
My courses are 100% online. Alta is designed to accompany lecture and labs, not replace them, so I have recorded “lectures” for students to watch in lieu of class attendance.
How did alta impact student performance in your course?
Across both sections, students performed consistently better on all exams when using alta.
Knewton Exam Grade Comparison
Prepared January 28, 2019
NOTE: The majority of the students in CHM 112 Fl18 did not use Knewton for CHM 111. There was a significant content shift (and addition) to CHM 112 between Sp18 and Fl18. Kinetics was moved to Exam 1, and nuclear chemistry was added to the curriculum (Exam 3 and the Final Exam).
I also solicited feedback on course materials from students. Here is a sampling of comments from students in my summer 2018 session:
Testimonials from Students
“I loved the program. When I took Chemistry classes at Virginia Tech, the homework provided no addition understanding and often left me more confused. Knewton frequently provided additional insight, explanations, videos, and the adaptive aspect helped assure I thoroughly understood the material.”
“As far as the Knewton assignments go, I enjoyed that it implemented adaptive learning because it allowed me to understand the concepts better, it was also really straightforward and easy to use which was helpful!”
“I actually like the knewton assignments. Although some took me a while because I had a hard time understanding the material, I love how it makes sure you understand by adding more questions if you’re not grasping it.”
“This has been the best online course I have taken so far; a nice balance was struck between the workload and how challenging it was. As far as Knewton is concerned, I really liked its adaptive nature. When I didn't know something I really appreciated how there was an option to view more instruction. I did notice that there was definitely some material that Knewton would cover in the homework that was not necessarily in your lecture videos, but it was a small inconvenience to return to the textbook. Overall I've been very pleased with your course, and am signed up for 112 in the fall! (Although I am hoping we do not cover a chapter a week then!)”
“My thoughts are Knewton are these: Knewton at first was hard to complete especially with the equations, however, it did help with pushing me to complete and understand the concepts. The best part about the Knewton assignments were the videos. They allowed me fully understand most of the content. I also liked how Knewton matched up nicely with the openStax textbook. This not only challenged me to read the chapter but apply the concepts so that I could understand the content. The only thing I would change about this would be if there were videos on how to do the equations. A lot of this was self taught, so it would have saved me a lot of strain to have a couple videos to explain how to do the equations.”
What do you like most about alta?
My favorite aspects were twofold; the adaptive nature of the system and the integration of instruction with practice problems. I also tremendously appreciate that it is based on an OER textbook (OpenStax) and integrates videos into the instruction.
What advice would you give instructors considering adopting alta to help get them started?
Ensure that Knewton alta is worth a significant number of points in your course, since the adaptive nature cannot help students fill gaps in learning if they don’t complete the assignments. Given that the assignments are adaptive and can make the assignment longer for struggling students, it is important to have them feel that their efforts are paying off in concrete terms that they can see. We may see increased understanding, but this is a long-term goal/strategy that sometimes students in the beginning of their studies can’t focus on enough to help them overcome tough times in the learning process.
Knewton's 2017 Student Data Insights
To measure alta’s impact on mastery across instructors, institutions and disciplines, Knewton analyzed the results of more than 10,000 students who used alta in 2017. The high-level findings:
- Students using alta demonstrate proficiency by completing assignments at high rates.
- Completing alta assignments is directly correlated with better performance on summative assessments.
- Alta provides the biggest benefit to students who need it most.