Transforming Learning with Interactive Animated Case Studies

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Title of Abstract: Transforming Learning with Interactive Animated Case Studies

Name of Author: Kathrin Stanger-Hall
Author Company or Institution: University of Georgia
Author Title: Assoc. Professor
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: General Biology, Integrative Biology, Physiology & Anatomy
Course Levels: Introductory Course(s)
Approaches: Adding to the literature on how people learn, Assessment, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.)
Keywords: Interactive Case studies, Dynamic Processes, Visualizations, Scientific Thinking, Interdisciplinary Learning

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: My overall goal in changing undergraduate biology education is to help students make the transition to scientific thinking and to develop their critical thinking skills. I also want to help students to integrate their learning within and across traditional disciplinary boundaries. My approach includes introducing students to different thinking skills (for biology and their future careers), identifying learning goals and difficulties, and developing learning supports while assessing their effectiveness for student learning. Previous change projects include the assessment of peer facilitators (Stanger-Hall et al. 2010), how-to-study workshops (Stanger-Hall et al. 2011) and the impact of different exam formats on student learning (Stanger-Hall 2012).

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: My current project focuses on student learning of dynamic processes. Specifically, I am testing the impact of different visualizations (still images vs. animations) on the learning of dynamic processes (diffusion, osmosis, filtration) in introductory biology (core concepts 2 and 4). To promote student engagement these visualizations are embedded in case studies that are based on real-world scenarios (core competency 6). All case studies require students to make predictions and test hypotheses (core competency 1). I am assessing the impact of case delivery and degree of interactivity (non-interactive paper case study versus interactive online case study) and visualization (still images versus animations embedded in interactive online case studies) on student learning. These case studies were implemented in supervised homework sessions, and we are currently analyzing the data from the paper-based case studies (N=400 students) and the online case studies with still images (N=500 students).

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Student learning gains with each case were assessed by pre-and posttests immediately before and after the case study. Embedded questions and process tasks during the case were used to gauge case-specific thinking and engagement. Final exam questions were used to assess learning at the end of the semester. Within one week after each case students submitted a case utility survey with self assessment of their learning and feedback on the utility and design of the case. Finally, five student surveys throughout the semester served to measure self-reported student characteristics such as motivation, attitude, and learning behaviors.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: We are still analyzing the data on student learning, but a preliminary analysis of student feedback shows that students greatly appreciated the real-world scenarios of the case studies and believe that this helped their learning. Once the learning data are analyzed we will test how well this self-assessment correlates with actual learning gains, whether some students learned more than others, and if yes, which students benefited more. This feedback in combination with the learning data will allow case designers and animators to improve the cases where needed, and use this information for future case design.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: The implementation of this project was logistically challenging due to large student numbers, limited teaching assistant support, and a low priority for student-centered teaching in the use of computer facilities. To address these problems I hired undergraduate assistants to help implement the cases, and we extended the hours of the computer facilities both early in the morning and late at night for this project. An entirely unexpected additional barrier in the process of the current project arose from copyright issues of the case studies. The interactive animated case studies were originally developed for high school students with an NIH SEPA grant (and graciously made available by the NIH SEPA PIs for this change project to adapt and assess them for the college level). NIH supports the maintenance of funded projects through a business model, which in this case had the unintended consequence of creating legal copyright issues. We are currently working on resolving this.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: Department: As a direct outcome of the osmosis case I am working with a colleague from plant physiology to translate the different terminology used to describe osmosis in plant and animal physiology. We are implementing these translations in a co-instructed introductory biology class (core competency 4). Biological Sciences: Through weekly meetings and collaborations a group of colleagues and post-docs in the Biological Sciences is working to improve student learning in all Introductory Biology classes, and to implement the core competencies of Vision and Change. STEM: In monthly meetings STEM education research faculty and faculty from the College of Education are working together towards institutional change. Institution: An interdisciplinary team of faculty (biology, veterinary medicine, animal physiology, physics education, science education) is working together to design interdisciplinary assessments (combining elements from physics, chemistry and biology) for biology, physics and veterinary students (assessing core competencies 4 & 5) across departments and colleges. Regional: I am currently collaborating with faculty at another institution to expand the use of interactive cases to their biology classes. National: The University of Georgia is one of the regional sites (Southeast) to host the expansion of the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education (PI Jo Handelsman, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute). Together with my Biology Education Research colleagues, I am organizing the Southeast Summer Institute, which disseminates the ideas and the practice of Scientific Teaching and Vision and Change to more than 30 faculty from institutions across the Southeast every year (Vision 4). This developing Southeast faculty network will work as a catalyst for change in the respective home institutions and is also working on developing and sharing innovations and supports to facilitate change.

Acknowledgements: These change projects would not have been possible without supportive colleagues and funding sources. I am grateful to Peggy Brickman, Norris Armstrong, Paula Lemons, Michelle Momany, Erin Dolan, Jim Moore and Scott Brown for continued support, and especially to Dave Hall for supporting me in both my work and raising a family. The previous and current change projects were made possible by UGA Board of Regents STEM grants (2008/2009, 2011/ 2012), by a UGA Research Foundation grant (2009/2010) by NSF (#1044370) and by HHMI (#52007443).