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Jan 29 2014 - 07:00 PM
The Benefits of Supplementary Course Materials

Title: The Impact of Supplementary On-Line Resources on Academic Performance: A Study of First-Year University Students Studying Economics (2012)

Authors: Elisa Birch & Andrew Williams

Source: International Education Studies

Research Questions: Can the voluntary use of supplementary online course materials increase academic performance?

Study Design: Blended courses are becoming more common as K-12 and higher education instructors integrate online components with in-class instruction. Several studies have addressed and affirmed the effectiveness of online education with required course components, but in-person courses that blend in digital technologies have not been well studied. The authors of The Impact of Supplementary On-Line Resources on Academic Performance: A Study of First-Year University Students Studying Economics measured the impact of supplementary and voluntary web materials on the academic performance of students enrolled in a traditional course.

The authors used data from 1,012 students enrolled in an undergraduate economics course at the University of Western Australia. The in-person course provided supplementary online elements including a web page, message board, practice quizzes, and practice homework questions. The authors measured individual student access to these resources throughout the semester. To determine the expected achievement for each student, the authors used student transcripts for past scores in university courses, scores from the school’s entrance exam, and evidence of economics experience from high school transcripts.

Findings: Controlling for expected academic achievement based on student background, the authors found that there were benefits to engaging with any supplementary course materials including the course homepage, online quizzes, student discussion boards, and practice questions. The most significant benefits came from participating in online practice quizzes. The authors also found that students who made more visits to the materials during the semester had greater benefits than students who made fewer visits, even if they engaged with the same number of materials.

Moving Forward: Because this study focused on voluntary materials that were not required for class, it is extremely difficult to separate use of these materials from pure student motivation or topic interest. Students who are engaged with the material and independently motivated by the course are more likely to use voluntary materials and also more likely to earn high marks in class. Though the study did not conclusively determine that the availability of online supplementary materials alone contributed to increased student success, monitoring access to voluntary materials may help educators quickly identify less motivated students to offer extra help.

Image: Studying in the Chapman Learning Commons by UBC Library Communications via Flickr