DFW Rates Decline by More than half to 9% in Political Science Course with Video and Active Learning

DFW Rates Decline by More than half to 9% in Political Science Course with Video and Active Learning

Ivan Ivanov, Assistant Professor Educator of Political Science and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Cincinnati, has a lot to say about how technology can be integrated successfully into the higher education classroom.

Ivanov has taught international relations and comparative politics at several universities, and has led study abroad programs. He has witnessed a full-scale transition from traditional educational models to modern, more efficient teaching and learning in higher education. Ivanov was teaching when the first awkward, early personal response systems were being introduced into classrooms, and he feels grateful that those initial systems have been surpassed.

“We have great capabilities available to us,” he says, compared to what once was.

Ivanov’s work with student engagement tools in the classroom is a testimony to how far those initial learning systems have advanced. With the development of Echo360, instructors like Ivanov are teaching more efficiently, and students are learning better, too.

After switching to Echo360, Ivanov saw a clear, rapid decline in students failing the large introductory course in international relations, often known, as DFW rate that signifies students who have received D or F grades (less than 67%), or those who have withdrawn from the course, from 20% down to around 9%, to be exact. This data was accompanied by higher overall median scores on his students’ midterm exams.  On the second of two midterms, for example, he saw an increase in median scores from 75% before he started using technology to about 87% afterwards. The student performance data also indicate that in courses in Echo360, students improved their overall performance on average by about 7%. For example, if a student would receive 70% or C- as their final grade in an offering that does not use Echo360, their performance would improve to 77% or C+ in a class that uses Echo360.

This indicates, of course, that for students, technology is an investment that dramatically increases long-term comprehension, and drives more concrete learning.

But how?

Ivanov’s strategy is twofold. First, he uses a graduate teaching assistant to run sessions outside of class using the Echo360 platform, to help students continue learning beyond the classroom boundaries. Second, he uses the technology platform himself, in order to keep his students actively learning while participating in a large classroom setting.

Using a new theme each week, Ivanov asks questions and presents polls for students to answer through the platform. He has adapted his teaching strategy so that students must participate in class this way. In fact, the analytics collected through Echo360 for students’ attendance and participation in class provides 10% and 5%, respectively, of students’ overall grade in his course. The students know this ahead of time, so they quickly learn to become active through the platform.

Ivanov also breaks his students into small groups and presents them with questions to discuss. He frames these questions in a way that helps students learn to pause, think critically, and reflect on the course material from a new perspective. Afterwards, each student submits his or her own answer to the question through the Echo360 platform, which gives Ivanov a good idea of how well the students comprehend the course material. Ultimately, he has found that this strategy helps further students’ understanding, and consequently their performance on exams.

“They’re more focused. They become more interested, and engaged,” Ivanov describes of his students’ reactions to his technology-aided teaching model.

Of the platform and its tools, Ivanov acknowledges, “It’s a big leap forward compared to other online platforms.”

If this sounds more complex for students than the passive classroom experience of the past where students were expected to simply listen and take notes, that’s because it is, and rightfully so.

“Having rigorous expectations and requirements is actually a service to [students], not only in doing well in class, but also in [becoming] leaders of the 21st Century.”

So, does using technology in the classroom ever cause a decrease in actual classroom attendance, as some instructors who don’t yet use the platform have feared?

“I cannot imagine how that could happen,” says Ivanov.

From his vantage point, he sees only an increase in participation and engagement, and therefore in attendance as well. He arranges his courses so that his students must be present in real time in order to learn the material—there is no faking participation, attendance, or engagement. Slides are presented at a certain point during the lecture, in correlation with questions that Ivanov expects students to answer in class.

Students are therefore more accountable for their own learning with the help of technology than they would be in a traditional classroom environment.

“University of Cincinnati has a sizable student population, so technology is the only way in large classroom settings to ensure that we’re able to compete with topnotch universities by delivering quality instruction,” Ivanov explains, pointing to the need for adapting teaching styles to include technology in order to improve learning and comprehension.

His innovation has earned him a grant from the University, with which he and a graduate student used Echo360 to prepare a set of weekly classes using PowerPoint slides and questions from his former courses. This is yet another technique he uses to manage learning in a larger classroom setting, which is always a challenge for instructors.

At some point, Ivanov envisions incorporating both lecture capture and a flipped classroom model in order to develop creative discussions or breakout sessions, furthering his already-innovative teaching model.

“Having technology on our side requires an entrepreneurial approach on the parts of faculty. It requires, also, willingness to change patterns of education but also vision to move forward. I think we have it in our discipline and in our college and we are moving forward with it. I hope also that the university will be able to support us in our endeavors, and they have been, thus far, very, very helpful.”

For Ivanov, the future of education for video platforms, therefore, seems boundless.


For more information on Echo360 or a demo of the platform contact us.