This article provides an evaluation of the impact of a specific e-learning platform (www.blackboard.com) upon pass rates, in particular on the MidTerm tests pass rate of “Calculus I”, a math course held at the Catholic University of Milan. An ICT project for a basic math course was developed and introduced in 2001 at the Catholic University, Faculty of Economics. Designed for freshmen, the course currently involves as many as 1,200 students, which is quite an achievement when compared with other e-learning blended courses available at the same university. The chief objective of the course is to supplement face-to-face lessons with the online learning activities implemented inside and/or outside the traditional classroom. The innovation of this project consists not only in its technological features but also in its tracking facilities. In fact, student online activities can be tracked down and teachers are provided with continuous feedback for the same to be redesigned. In addition, students can widen their knowledge of the subject matter through additional learning materials such as interactive self-assessment tests, guided assignments, and so forth.
Description Of The Project
Calculus I is a Math basic course compulsory for some 1,200 students in the first year of a three-year degree at the Faculty of Economics of the Catholic University of Milan. As a matter of fact, a growing number of students from secondary schools face problems in understanding the course content because of their poor knowledge of the subject matter. It is a well-known fact that the relevant math exam represents a major obstacle for the students of this faculty and has not only the highest failure rate, but many dropouts and considerable delays in completing the university degree.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Course Access Statistics: Method of tracking online activity of students incorporated in the e-learning software. The details provided in these access statistics allow the teacher to generate reports regarding the way the course is used and the online activity of the students (number of accesses for each student, areas most visited, average time on-line, number of daily visitors, etc.).
Learning Object: Modular digital resources, uniquely identified, and metatagged, that can be used to support learning (Wiley, 2000).
Blended Learning: Is a learning method that combines the use of different teaching methods and communication means such as: live lessons (in the classroom or via teleconferences), self-learning (learning objects, educational texts) and collaborative learning (based on synchronous or asynchronous interaction, either live or virtual via chat-rooms, forums, and e-mail).
Learning Management System: Platform application that manages the delivery of e-learning courses, and within these, the publication of contents, student registrations, online statistics, and an evaluation of knowledge acquired.
E-Learning Standards: A set of rules that allow for a high level of interoperability, reusability, adaptability, and durability of e-learning and learning object systems. The most common e-learning standards are ADL, AICC, IEEE, and IMS, which are designed for content interoperability of a shared metadata and statistics system.
Calculus I: First year Economics Faculty course with a syllabus that includes linear algebra and elements of basic analysis such as, one or two variable functions, and differential and integral calculus.
Forum: Asynchronous communication tool that allows the user to post messages in a space shared with other users. Each post may be followed by a series of replies to the topic of the original post. Forums differ from synchronous communication tools such as chat rooms, because in forums the messages may be posted at different times by users who are not necessarily connected all at the same time.
Mailing List: A list of e-mail addresses identified by a single name. When an e-mail message is sent to the mailing list name, it is automatically forwarded to all the addresses in the list without the need to know all members’ individual e-mail addresses.
Questionnaire: Quantative analysis tool used to collect information. It consists of the categories of responses desired by the developer of the questionnaire. Depending on the format, users can respond by choosing from a predefined multiple-choice list (close-ended questionnaire), or may be allowed to respond spontaneously (open-ended questionnaire).