«Eating Your Lectures and Having Them too: is Online Lecture Availability Especially Helpful in “Skills-Based” Courses? Steve Joordens, Ada Le, ...»
If the correlations do not reflect attributes of the students’ abilities, perhaps they reflect differences in learning strategies (Biggs et. al, 2001) that interact with course content. That is, it may be the case that some students approach learning by attempting to memorize concepts. Such students might be more likely to rely on the online lectures, pausing them often to take notes or remind themselves of concepts. Such a “surface” strategy might work well in the contexts where students are primarily learning definitions, theories, etc. as is more the case for courses like Introductory Psychology. But it could actually be a counterproductive in courses where one truly learns by working through novel www.ejel org ISSN 1479-4403 Electronic Journal of e-Learning Volume 7 Issue 3 2009, (281 - 288) problems, generalizing the examples in class to new situations. The students who attempt to memorize may feel like they are learning the class content, and they may be, but if the assessment focuses on deep learning and the ability to transfer cognitive skills, then knowing the lecture content may be insufficient.
2.3 General discussion The current paper examined usage of online lectures, and the features they provide, in the context of two math courses. Of primary interest was the relation between feature usage and performance in the class. To our surprise, and in contrast with previous findings in the context of Introductory Psychology, students who both attended and watched lectures online, and those who pause online lectures frequently, actually performed worse in the course. We cannot be sure of the reason for these contrasting results, but we believe it is due to different learning strategies and the manner in which they interact with course content. In courses where students are primarily learning relatively shallow concepts and definitions, the ability to pause lectures may facilitate memorization strategies and result in better performance. However, in courses were students must learn, and learn to transfer, cognitive skills those who rely on memorization strategies may actually perform worse.
It would be a mistake, however, to view these findings as a reason to not provide access to online lectures in mathematics contexts. Many students did indeed utilize the online lectures, some watching over half of their lectures online. Clearly the presence of online lectures provides a great convenience to students and thereby enhances their satisfaction with the learning experience (Bassili & Joordens, 2008). In addition, it is not the case that those who watched lectures online performed generally more poorly; mode of lecture viewing (Online vs. Traditional) was unrelated to performance.
Instead, the primary message of this paper is that if left on their own devices, some students may utilize online lectures in a manner that is not beneficial to their learning. Specifically, they may be attempting to “understand” calculus by memorizing what occurred within the classes, a tendency that can be detected in the variables measured here (i.e., the tendency to both attend and watch online lectures, and the tendency to pause the online lectures often while viewing). In the absence of online lectures these students may nonetheless attempt such a surface learning strategy, but this tendency would remain unnoticed. The presence of online lectures may have provided a new tool to support the non-effective strategy, but it is the chosen strategy, not the tool, that is the primary problem.
This all leads us to the following recommendation. Providing access to online lectures in skills-based courses like calculus can provide flexibility and convenience, but students should instructed on how to use the online lectures to their benefit. They should not be pausing lectures in order to better memorize what happened in the class but, rather, they should be pausing with the intent of gaining a deeper understanding by applying what happened in the lecture to novel problems. Pausing should be used to go beyond the lecture, not further within it.
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Unpublished raw data.
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