Supported by grants from EDUCAUSE, funded through
Next Generation Learning Challenges, and the U.S. Department
of Education - Institute of Education Sciences

Student Outcomes

Extensive evaluation indicates that U-Pace instruction facilitates greater learning and greater academic success for all students compared to conventional, face-to-face instruction.

Student Academic Success

U-Pace instruction was compared with conventional instruction, holding the textbook and course content constant. In both the U-Pace and conventionally taught course sections grading was completely objective, based on the students' performance on computer-scored multiple-choice assessments. In addition, assessment questions for U-Pace and the conventionally taught sections were drawn from the same pool of equally difficult test items, and were used to form either quizzes (for U-Pace students) or larger exams (for conventionally taught students). Final course grades for U-Pace students were based on the number of quizzes completed with a score of at least 90%, whereas, final course grades for the conventionally taught students were based on the average of their four exam scores.

We evaluated whether academic success, defined as objectively determined final course grades of A or B, would differ between the U-Pace (n=1,734) and conventionally taught (n=2,874) students. First, we evaluated how well "disadvantaged students" (students from low income backgrounds eligible for Federal Pell grants or disadvantaged from conditions associated with racial/ethnic minority status, specifically African American, Native American, Hispanic, and Southeast Asian students) and "not disadvantaged students" performed under both types of instruction. Figure 1 shows that a significantly higher percentage of U-Pace students earned a final course grade of A or B compared to conventionally taught students (χ2(1)=137.13, p<.001). Importantly, both the "disadvantaged" students and "not disadvantaged" students performed better with U-Pace instruction. In fact, focusing on the two middle bars in Figure 1 shows that the "disadvantaged" U-Pace students performed significantly better than the "not disadvantaged" conventionally taught students (χ2(1)=5.73, p < .05). Furthermore, U-Pace significantly reduced the achievement gap between "disadvantaged" students and "not disadvantaged" students from 14.08 percentage points to 8.54 percentage points (χ2(1)=5.98, p < .05).

Disadvantaged Not Disadvantaged Disadvantaged Not Disadvantaged
Conventional Instruction U-Pace Instruction

Figure 1. The figure presents the percentage of final course grades of A or B earned by "disadvantaged" versus "not disadvantaged" students in U-Pace instruction compared with conventional instruction. "Disadvantaged" students are students from low income backgrounds (federal Pell grant eligible) or disadvantaged from conditions associated with racial/ethnic minority status. The U-Pace students significantly outperformed the conventionally taught students. Additionally, "disadvantaged" U-Pace students performed significantly better than "not disadvantaged" conventionally taught students. Furthermore, U-Pace significantly reduced the achievement gap between "disadvantaged" students and "not disadvantaged" students.

Second, we evaluated how well "academically underprepared" students (students with ACT composite scores less than 19 or cumulative college GPAs less than 2.00 on a 4.00 scale) and "academically prepared" students performed under both types of instruction. Figure 2 reveals that the "academically underprepared" students and the "academically prepared" students performed better with U-Pace instruction. The two middle bars in Figure 2 show that the "academically underprepared" U-Pace students performed as well as the "academically prepared" conventionally taught students (χ2(1) = 0.24, p > .05).

Percent of U-Pace and Conventionally Taught Psych 101 Students Earning As and Bs by Student Academic Programs

Figure 2. The figure presents the percentage of final course grades of A or B earned by "academically underprepared" versus "academically prepared" students in U-Pace instruction compared with conventional instruction. "Academically underprepared" students are students with ACT composite scores less than 19 or cumulative college GPAs less than 2.00 on a 4.00 scale. The U-Pace students significantly outperformed the conventionally taught students. Moreover, "academically underprepared" U-Pace students were empowered to perform as well as their "academically prepared" counterparts in conventionally taught sections.

The findings depicted in Figures 1 and 2 were calculated based on all students, regardless of whether they withdrew or dropped from the course. Further, college cumulative GPA was the only difference between the students who enrolled in the U-Pace and conventionally taught sections. The U-Pace students had a significantly lower cumulative GPA than the conventionally taught students (M=2.44 versus M=2.58), which would increase the likelihood of finding poorer (not better) outcomes for U-Pace instruction. In addition, even though the U-Pace sections had a greater mean drop/withdrawal rate than the conventionally taught sections (M=7.7% versus M=4.7%), analysis revealed that this differential attrition had no significant impact on the findings.

Student Learning

We assessed whether randomly selected U-Pace and conventionally taught students differed in their learning at the conclusion of the course and again six months later using two different cumulative, multiple choice exams measuring core concepts for introduction to psychology. These exams did not count toward U-Pace or conventionally taught students' course grades. A committee of experienced introduction to psychology instructors selected core concepts for the exams identified by the American Psychological Association's Society for the Teaching of Psychology, Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology2. In addition, the exams were constructed so that the questions tested understanding of the material beyond recall of factual knowledge. The cumulative exams were administered in a proctored classroom. Students' motivation was maximized by requiring them to put their names on the exams, to work on the exam for a minimum of 30 minutes and to check over their answers before they could be dismissed and receive their $25 incentive. In addition, students were told that the exam was critical for the evaluation of learning and that it was important for them to perform their best. The U-Pace students significantly outperformed the conventionally taught students, scoring 21 percentage points higher. There were no significant differences between U-Pace and conventionally taught students in ACT composite scores or cumulative college GPAs to account for the greater learning demonstrated by U-Pace students. Six months later, the U-Pace students once again, performed significantly better on another proctored cumulative exam measuring core concepts, this time scoring 15 percentage points higher. There were no significant differences in ACT composite scores or cumulative college GPA to explain this finding, and also no differences in ACT composite scores or cumulative college GPA between students (conventional or U-Pace) who only took exam one and those who took exams one and two. Thus, compared to the conventionally taught students, U-Pace students demonstrated greater learning of core concepts on a challenging cumulative exam that did not count toward their course grades, and again exhibited greater learning on another challenging cumulative exam administered six months later.

2. Derrick L. Proctor and Alisa M.E. Williams (2006). Frequently cited concepts in current introduction to psychology textbooks. Society for the Teaching of Psychology (APA Division 2), Office of Teaching Resources in psychology (OTRP).

Impact of U-Pace on Student Learning





Improvements in the Rate of Content Mastery

Using the behavioral record in the LMS, significant reductions in the average number of attempts per quiz needed to achieve mastery (i.e., score 90% or above) were found for U-Pace students who completed content modules. Figure 3 revealed no difference in the mean number of quiz attempts made between quizzes 1(M=4.2) and 11 (M=4.8, t(95)=-1.03, p>.05), but a significant difference emerged between quizzes 11 (M=4.8) and 22 (M=3.1, t(95)=3.96, p<.001).

Student Motivation

Of those who already earned their "A" in the U-Pace course, 92% completed an optional content module, with 57% achieving at least a 90% on the corresponding quiz, suggesting that U-Pace engendered students' intrinsic motivation.

 

Psychological Outcomes and Perceived Skill Improvement

We examined differences between U-Pace students, conventionally taught students using the same textbook and questions for assessments, and conventionally taught students in sections using different textbooks and assessment questions. The table below shows superior psychological and skill improvement outcomes for U-Pace. No differences were found between conventionally taught students in sections using the same textbook and questions for exams and those in sections using different textbooks and assessments on these psychological outcome and skill improvement measures.

U-Pace
Instruction
Conventional Instruction:
Same Materials
Conventional Instruction: Different Materials
Sense of Control Over Learning
9.12*** >
6.72
7.54
Sense of Achievement
8.08* >
7.03
7.18
Improvement in Time Management Skills
7.03*** >
5.79
5.67
Improvement in Study Skills
7.60*** >
6.21
6.35

* p<.05 ** p<.01 *** p<.001