Differences Between High- and Low-Rated STEM Courses

The following infographic comes from a study conducted by the RED team and published in Winter 2018, in response to the question, "Why do STEM courses feature so prominently on our Sub-4 list?".

Researcher: Allison Gallegos, Curtis Henrie
Sponsor: Eric Karl

IN SUMMARY... Research suggests that two primary factors affect the student experience within STEM courses: instructional resources and instructor involvement. When both are good, students are successful and the course tends to be highly rated. When both are bad, the course and students tend to suffer. "[The instructor] goes above and beyond ... He helped me to learn what I could learn from nowhere else, and he assisted me in having the best possible experience in this class." "[The instructor] has an excellent way of explaining the content that really helps us understand." "[The instructor] was excellent at providing learning resources and web videos that helped explain the concepts we were learning." STUDENTS SAY: BIO 375 POSITIVE THEMES IN STUDENT COMMENTS From an analysis of 1,568 student comments for 33 STEM courses taken from end-of-course surveys in Spring 2017. POSITIVE THEMES ABOUT INSTRUCTOR INVOLVMENT From an analysis of 1,568 student comments for 33 STEM courses taken from end-of-course surveys in Spring 2017. IN CONTRAST... Effective Low Involvement Ineffective INSTRUCTIONAL RESOURCES INSTRUCTOR High ratings correspond with positive feedback about instructor involvement Students succeed because instructors compensate Instructor experience may be poor Course is highly rated Positive learning experiences Student experience declines Course rating suffers Course rating suffers Students feel cheated out of feedback and instructor interaction Data from a study conducted in Fall 2017 by BYU-Idaho Online and Pathway Research. Full report available. 2018 BYU-Idaho Online. Not for distribution 50% 34% 32% 18% 12% 6% 5% 5% GENERAL GOOD FEELINGS RESPONSIVENESS HELPFULNESS PROVIDED ADDITIONAL IR HELPFUL CLASS MEETING/OFFICE HOURS HELPFUL ANNOUNCEMENTS PARTICIPATION IN DISCUSSIONS KNOWLEDGABLE High Involvement ) STUDENTS SAY: NEGATIVE THEMES IN STUDENT COMMENTS From an analysis of 1,568 student comments for 33 STEM courses taken from end-of-course surveys in Spring 2017. From an analysis of 316 student comments for 30 STEM courses taken from end-of-course surveys in Spring 2017. NEGATIVE THEMES ABOUT INSTRUCTIONAL RESOURCES MORE IR NEEDED IR DIDNT PREPARE STUDENT FOR TEST POOR QUALITY IR IR FORMAT (PRINT, ONLINE, ETC.) IR ORGANIZATION IR ARENT FOCUSED WANTED MORE TEACHING FROM INSTRUCTOR "The course material should be reviewed to ensure that it clearly teaches the content." "I spent the entire course teaching myself all the ma-terial with Google Search." "If I wanted to learn how to code by Googling everything...I wouldnt pay hundreds of dollars in tuition. We can find balance between promoting independence and giving instruction." Our research suggests not. If it were an inherent problem, wed expect all the courses in these departments to be struggling; however, each department has highly rated courses as well. WHATS GOING ON? IS IT THE SUBJECT MATTER? IS IT THE COURSE STRUCTURE? 5.87 CIT 110 6.00 CS 371 5.33 FDSCI 101 5.63 MATH 221A 5.95 ME 172 Again, our research suggests not. In a review of student comments and course elements, we found no significant difference between highly rated and sub-4 courses across the following areas: Use of instructor announcements Course flow and navigation Use of online vs. print textbooks Due date clarity Use of weekly overviews Use of rubrics On average, 17% of STEM courses at BYU-Idaho rate in the sub-4 category, which is significantly more than other departments. SUB-4 PERCENTAGES IN STEM DEPARTMENTS 27% 15% MechanicalEngineering 0% Computer Science CIT Science 10% 10% *Average per semester from Winter 2016 through Fall 2017 AVERAGE PERCENTAGE OF SUB-4 COURSES BY SUBJECT* HIGH-RATED DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LOW-RATED & ONLINE STEM COURSES AT BYU-IDAHO Mathematics !"# $# "# $# %# &'() *+&,-(&& ./))+-,.0',/-& 1213 /'1(2 Low ratings correspond with student feedback on poor instructional resources (IR) SO WHAT IS IT? 22% 16% 10% 6% 5% 4% 2% 4% 1% 23% 5% 6% 6% 3% 5% 3% 2% 4% 13% 5% 8% 3% 6% 4% 3% 2% 2% 10% 10% 5% 1% 4% 1% 5% 1% 1% <4 4-5 5-6 6-7 Course Rating 20% 35% 29% 10% 10% 7% 12% 19% 4% 2% 1% 0% 2% 0% 30% 4% 2% 3% 2% 1% 0% 36% 5% 3% 3% 3% 2% 1% 40% 6% 6% 6% 3% 0% 0% <4 4-5 5-6 6-7 From an analysis of 316 student comments for 30 STEM courses taken from end-of-course surveys in Spring 2017. 17% 17% 4% 7% 4% 3% STEM BUSINESS COMMUNICATIONS HRHP OTHER

Supplemental Student Quotes

Positive Instructional Resources

"I appreciate that there are videos to help explain some things. I appreciate the inclusion of photos and visual images to explain concepts."

"The instructor was helpful in providing videos on the course announcement page that explained some subjects in the course."

"Great resources were available to help all kinds of learners. Repetition of material, first in readings, then lecture videos, and then quizzes made it much easier to learn and retain material."

"Being able to watch all of the videos each week is what sets this class apart from others. Never have I taken a class where I was able to review so much content available to us.

"The online textbook was a wonderful resource and contributed greatly to my success in class."

Negative Instructional Resources

"I do not do well with online-only texts. The option for a hard cover book, even if more expensive, would be greatly appreciated and preferred."

"I did poor in [areas where] there were no video examples. For people who are visual learners, this is ESSENTIAL. As an online student, sometimes reading in the book is not enough, especially when they speak in that math jargon."

"This course needs to teach the objectives with the material. Right now, it's a 'Go Google it and learn it from whatever source you stumble upon.' We need a source to learn from besides the Internet."

"The readings need to be different. More examples need to be provided, and the readings need to be condensed. It would help if this course had its own textbook that we are learning out of, one that is more in touch with the level we're learning at. This is an introductory DNA course, so the text should not be at a level that is so much higher than that."

Positive Instructor Involvement

"The instructor was able to take intricate material and make it understandable for real life. [She was] opent to her students' suggestions and kept the stress down through videos, review sessions, and a sense of humor."

"I really enjoyed when [my instructor] made external videos describing a concept or how to do a particular problem. She does a good job explaining what's going on, and I really appreciate that."

"I enjoyed how [my instructor's] posts felt like they were personally for me, even when they were directed for out class."

"[My instructor] was excellent at providing elarning resources and web videos that helped explain the concepts we were learning. He was a great teacher for an online course."

"[My instructor's] weekly online class in Adobe Connect is entertaining and informative. I didn't always enjoy the subject matter of the course . . . but [my instructor] made the class much more bearable for me."

Negative Instructor Involvement

"Video material on how to do the problems would benefit those of us who don't learn material from a book or reading the material. I didn't feel like it was clear on some lessons, so I wasted a lot of time trying to figure it out . . . I need better instruction from an instructor teaching the purpose of the material."

"I wish [my instructor] would have taught through video for each lesson instead of just an hour review before the exam because by that time, it was too late."

"I don't believe the instructor has really done much to contribute to the learning of the class, seeing how all the amterial is form anotehr teacher in instruction videos. Almost all my learning was done by going to a drop-in tutor lab."

"I would have liked to have had a little more instructor involvement with providing tutorials to especially hard problems. [I got] some of the information from other students whose instructors made videos above the ones provided in the course."

"The class needs a major overhaul. The teacher was not helpful; he hasn't posted any announcements since Week 6."


About this article

Responsible: Curtis Henrie (RED Team Lead)
Accountable: Ben Fryar (OPR Director)
Consulted: N/A
Informed: Eric Karl (CurrDev Managing Director), Curriculum designers

Sharing: Restricted (Online)

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