Research Finds Positive Impact of Video and Active Learning Strategies on Student Retention and Grades

Research Finds Positive Impact of Video and Active Learning Strategies on Student Retention and Grades

A growing body of research finds that the traditional approach to teaching science—often a combination of lectures and the cramming of facts—can be a barrier for many students, discouraging would-be STEM majors from pursuing the field or even underclassmen working through their general education coursework.

At Davidson College, biology faculty have been collaborating to test new approaches in pedagogy and course content to improve success in introductory biology courses. These faculty developed a new, two-semester introductory course that incorporates the Echo360 platform to create a flipped classroom. Before class, students read from the textbook, and come to class ready to participate in group discussion—responding to in-class polls or collaborating in small groups on hands-on projects. The faculty present data from the book and ask students questions. After class, students are able to view the slides and listen to the recorded class from their own tablet, computer, or mobile device and take time-synched notes; their private notes and the lecture are available for them to revisit any time. They’re interacting throughout class, responding to polling questions and taking notes. High quality video capture and live polling have enabled faculty to create an active learning environment, that’s highly responsive to the needs of the student.

To better understand the impact of the new approach, the Davidson academic research team analyzed student behavior and grade data. Their findings were recently published in the peer-reviewed journal,  CBE Life Sciences Education. Here’s what they found:

Grades Improved

In 2012, before using Echo360, roughly half (47%) of students averaged below 80% on four exams. After using Echo360 for one year, average exam grades improved and only a quarter (26%) of students averaged below 80%. In the second year of Echo360, only 9% of the class averaged below 80%, which meant only 3 students were averaging below 80% on their exams.

More Students Declared Biology as a Major

By implementing active learning methods and the Echo360 platform, the number of students who became biology majors increased by 50%. The percentages in the chart below represent the proportion of students who took the introductory courses, had success, and subsequently declared biology as their major. Previous work showed that earning at least a B was the threshold for staying in the major.

Student Engagement Increased

In addition to more students declaring biology as their major, when surveyed, students also reported increased engagement after each class throughout the semester. Students also reported that Echo360 was very helpful for their studies.

Davidson College continues to study the impact of active learning and Echo360 in the classroom. One of the stakeholders in the research, Kyosung Koo, an Instructional Technologist at Davidson College, recently presented at our active learning conference in Dallas, Texas.

Koo provided an update on the Echo360 implementation, including new insights gleaned from an analysis of learner analytics, survey data, and focus group data.