Date of Award

10-20-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Amy R. Lederberg - Chair

Second Advisor

A. Faye Borthick

Third Advisor

Dennis Thompson

Fourth Advisor

Daphne Greenberg

Abstract

This dissertation reports on two supplemental instruction implementations in courses with high failure rates. In study one, 27 ultra-short on-line tutorials were created for Principles of Accounting II students (N = 426). In study two, 21 tutorials with a similar design were created for Elementary Statistics students (N = 1,411). Accounting students were encouraged by their instructor to use the resource, but statistics students only saw a brief demonstration by the researcher. Neither course gave students credit for using the tutorials. In study one, 71.4% of the accounting students used the tutorials. Students who used the tutorials had dramatically lower drop rates and better pass rates. Tutorial use was correlated with exam scores, although the effect was moderate. Tutorial use remained at high levels two years after implementation without instructors promoting use of the resource. Course grades were higher for the two-year period after implementation compared to the two years prior to implementation. In study two, statistics sections were randomly assigned to intervention (tutorials; 695 students) or control (716 students). There were no significant differences in drop rates or average grades between intervention and control sections. On average, 46.0% of the intervention students used the tutorials. Users were less likely to drop and more likely to pass compared to non-users and control students; these differences were especially pronounced among low-achieving students. Tutorial use was correlated with slightly higher exam scores, but only for low achievers. The lack of differences between intervention and control sections may have been due to the drop off of usage after the first exam and the small learning effect only accruing to the relatively small number of low achievers. Participants reported the tutorials as “important to their course achievement” more often than other course resources. The important features of the tutorials were convenience (24/7 Internet access), efficiency of learning, and clear instruction. These studies suggest that the magnitude of the learning effect of the ultra-short tutorials depends on the tutorial topics, instructor promotion of the resource, and whether or not they are implemented in a course in which students feel the need to seek extra instruction.

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