This complete research paper will present a model for offering students flexibility in assignment deadlines and the practical ramifications of enabling that flexibility on student performance in the course.
Background – It is generally acknowledged that students benefit from reviewing feedback and revising their work. It’s also widely recognized that this kind of iteration is logistically difficult to implement and rarely occurs in engineering courses.
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe the structure of a first-year Introduction to Graphical Communications course that provided deadline flexibility and the effects that flexibility had on students iterating on their work. The course was taught at a medium-sized, private, Business+STEM-only institution in the southeast United States.
Design/Method – The course was designed using the ILEARN flipped-classroom framework. The ILEARN framework divides course content into six components. (I)ntroduction lists the learning objectives of that module. (L)essons are theory-focused passive content with comprehension quizzes at the end. (E)mulates are worked examples with a think-aloud protocol where students are required to submit the emulated problem solution. (A)ctivities are akin to traditional homework assignments; new problems that can be solved using the tools and techniques demonstrated in the Lesson and Emulate tasks. (R)eflections are meta-cognitive reflection surveys. (N)ext Steps are an application of the content toward their final project. Out-of-class instruction is contained across the Lesson and Emulate tasks. In-class time is now spent in one-on-one or small group consultation to answer questions and help students move forward through the content. The flipped nature of the course enabled a more flexible deadline policy and removed the requirement for content lock-step. All assignments were given a recommended due date throughout the week. A hard deadline for each module was set 2 weeks after the Next Steps task’s recommended due date. There was no grade penalty for submitting in this two-week window, but multiple nudges were in place to encourage students to submit their assignments by the recommended due date. Most notably, this 2-week buffer often enabled graders to provide feedback on work submitted on time and for students to revise and resubmit their work.
Results – On 106 unique tasks assigned to 78 students, students averaged 1.13 submissions per task. All 78 students submitted at least 1 task multiple times. With the exception of one task which proved particularly complex (and had as many as 8 resubmissions), the maximum number of resubmissions was 5 attempts. A more detailed and nuanced analysis will explore when work was (re-)graded, how students used the 2-week buffer, and how the opportunity to resubmit work influenced overall course performance.
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