Cycle 1 Data

AR Focus Statement

The problem being addressed is student’s seeming lack of interest to study and connect with the course material. The proposed solution is to engage the students through a focus on technology and networking.

Inquiry Questions

Will recording engineering students in System Support better comprehend fundamental computer applications and score higher grades in class after receiving in depth lessons on how to optimize Mac OSX system preferences on their personal computers?

Will the interest and therefore the recorded daily attendance of Los Angeles Recording School students enrolled in System Support be improved by visiting Internet resources and connecting with relevant professional networks?

Target Audience

The target audience is the students enrolled at the Los Angeles Recording School who attended System Support during the month of May 2012. For cycle 1, 82 students were enrolled in System Support. Seven students were female and 75 were male. The class is 1 month in length and falls approximately 4 to 6 months into the associate degree program. Students range in age from 18 to 50 and in order to enroll in the Los Angeles Recording School they must have completed a high school level education.

Summary of Cycle 1

An introductory email was sent to all the students enrolled in System Support for the month of May 2012. The email explained what the students would need to bring to class, how they could access the course website, links to tutorials, contact information for their instructors, as well as offering an extra credit opportunity. The extra credit required students to watch a video from a playlist on the course website, and to send an email response with the title of the video they watched.

We redesigned the order and focus of the course. The May term began with a more thorough overview of their computer hardware, operating system, and Internet resources that are commonly used by industry professionals. We also focused on how to present yourself as a professional on the Internet, and how to be a responsible digital citizen.

In the first and second lab classes we walked the students through finding and optimizing their system preferences on their MacBook Pro laptops. We also walked the students through user registration on the Avid and iLok websites, as well as other Internet resources including the System Support course website. In the third lab class the students took lab quiz 1. This was their first assessment and was designed to evaluate their understanding of Mac OSX system preferences, basic tools, and sharing files via email attachments. Following that they were guided through installation and registration of ProTools and authorization using their iLoks. The fourth and fifth labs had the students learning about their Mbox 3 mini audio interfaces, the importance of external hard drives, and how to set up a basic ProTools session on their computers. They also learned about different audio file formats and listened to compare the quality. Lab 5 began with lab quiz 2 that was a combination of multiple choice and true or false questions designed to assess their comprehension of computer hardware, maintenance and troubleshooting procedures and familiarity with Internet resources covered in previous labs.

The point of this was to help students realize the potential and fragility of their laptops, and that they can do much more than just Facebook with a MacBook Pro. We wanted to make sure they had an opportunity to explore the many tools and connectivity of their laptops. We hoped they would begin to understand the raw power available at their fingertips. We predicted that greater understanding of their hardware and how they are connected would generate greater interest in the rest of the course material. Seeing the vast resources available they would hopefully investigate further into their personal areas of interest and make more of the kinds of connections that reinforce the relevance of the class material.

Data Collection

Data was collected at multiple stages of cycle 1 using several methods. Grades where calculated and compared for each of 3 lab quizzes, 3 lecture quizzes, and final exams in both lab and lecture. Lab and lecture quizzes consisted mostly of multiple choice, true or false, and matching questions given to students with a time limit using Starquiz software by Cosmicsoft. Lab quiz 1 was unique in that it had students follow detailed instructions to demonstrate understanding of their computers most important system settings and network connectivity. The 2nd part of the lab final exam gave the students a choice of three hands on activities to demonstrate their technical competence in completing basic procedures on their laptops as taught in lab.

Course failure rates of the previous two classes in System Support were compared with the failure rates at the end of cycle 1. The comparison was fairly straight forward as derived from the standard monthly Grade Book Excel spreadsheet developed by Mike Olson, the Associate Program Director.

Attendance was compared with the attendance of the previous two months. At the beginning and end of each lab and lecture, the instructor calls and marks roll for the class. Each roll call represents 90 minutes of class so each lab and lecture class is approximately 3 hours. There are a total of 10 lectures and 10 labs for the course, totaling 60 hours. Attendance records provided a very clear comparison between previous classes and cycle 1. The average number of hours a student spent in class was easily approximated.

Students were also asked to fill out an entrance and exit survey for the class that asked similarly  how much computer experience they had, how comfortable they felt, what Internet resources they were familiar with and what they found useful.

Multiple written extra credit assignments were offered during the course, one of which asked for a somewhat detailed assessment of what they most enjoyed learning in class. Responses were limited yet insightful.

At the end of every course at the Los Angeles Recording School, students are asked to fill out evaluations about their perceived quality and relevance of the course. The voluntarily anonymous responses provided a great deal of feedback that is delivered directly to the course director as a spreadsheet.

The final sources of data I retrieved came from the 4 System Support lab instructors and the System Support student advisor, Betti Gutierrez. The lab instructors provided me with weekly feedback from the classroom. The student advisor made a considerable effort to follow up with problematic students, and therefore was able to collect a list of excuses and explanations that were provided by students as their reason for absence.

Spreadsheet of data summary

Data Report

Upon completion of cycle 1, there was a measurable improvement in the students engagement and comprehension of the material. The outcome was clearly demonstrated in the analysis of student grades and attendance as well as their individual feedback.

Ultimately the students seemed to respond quite well and provided mostly positive feedback. They scored quite well on the quiz assessments for the first half of the class, and seemed to have a greater degree of respect and appreciation for the broad range of capabilities of their MacBook Pro laptops. They also started to use the recommended resources more while asking more comprehensive questions about computer features that often demonstrated a greater awareness and a more thorough understanding of the hardware and software. They generally appeared more connected with their laptops and professional online resources. Student exit surveys suggested that they left with increased awareness and acceptance of online resources they were introduced to in class. In the extra credit summaries students submitted about what they learned, many of them appreciated how much they learned about their computers even though they thought they were quite knowledgable before they began the class.

Student final grades were compared to the previous 2 months to cycle 1 (listed as percentages).

  • March – 64.3% = Letter grade D
  • April – 64.8% = Letter grade D
  • May (cycle 1) – 77.4% = Letter grade C+
The final grades data shows that there was a significant improvement in the average final grade (therefore GPA) of students during the first cycle compared to the previous 2 months. The average grade improved a little more than a full letter grade to an average GPA that is acceptable for earning a degree. There was an average increase just over 19% in final grades.

Student failure rates were compared to the previous 2 months to cycle 1.

  • March – 24.47% (23 out of 94 failed)
  • April – 24.73% (23 out of 93 failed)
  • May (cycle 1) – 9.76% (8 out of 82 failed)
Student failure rate for the May class during cycle 1 was reduced by approximately 60% compared to the previous 2 classes. This shows a significant improvement in students success.

Student attendance was compared to the previous 2 months to cycle 1. There are 60 hours of total class time of lecture and lab combined.

  • March – 69% average student attendance
  • April – 70% average student attendance
  • May (cycle 1) – 78.5% average student attendance
Overall student attendance for the month of May during cycle 1 was increased by an average of more than 5 hours per student. That is more than 1 class worth of increased student attendance. With 82 students having completed System Support in May, that means over 418 more class hours of student attendance. Average student attendance increased by 8.5%. Obviously that improves the potential amount of material students can be exposed to and retain, and suggests improved attention span and interest.
Meetings with the lab instructors for the purpose of feedback and general discussion about classroom attitude. Several informal meetings were held with student advisor Betti Gutierrez regarding student success and to discuss why students were missing classes. Some student excuses for missing or failing the course were documented by Betti Gutierrez.
  1. After comparing the entrance and exit surveys, the responses indicated that generally students definitely lacked knowledge about some of their computer hardware and connectivity, deeper level computer system preferences, basic computer maintenance, and common Internet resources. Most of the exit responses indicated an increased sense of value in important industry resources. Exit surveys also stated a general greater understanding of the applied technology. High average scores on lab quiz 1 of 91.2% and better averages on lecture quiz 1 of 78.3%, show that the students have improved comprehension of the computer related material.
  2. Evaluations showed varying levels of satisfaction with the instructors and class overall. Extra credit response summaries seemed to mostly convey a great appreciation for the many topics covered in class, though there did not seem to be a specific preference for computer related lessons and information. With an overall average increase of 8.5% in student attendance, there appeared to be a general improvement of student engagement.
  3. Based on the many meetings with the four lab instructors and the student advisor, the overall attitude and attention span of students seems to have improved somewhat. There also seems to be a reduced level of anxiety for the first half of the course, though students still seem to be plagued by anxieties about the concepts that involve some math in the second half of the course. The improved student attendance clearly demonstrates this. Direct feedback from the students about the mathematical aspects shows their problems stem more from fear than from actual ability and comprehension.

Insight

Students seem much more relaxed and comfortable with the class when we started by introducing them to their computers. It worked much better than starting with math. The students seem much more attentive initially as well, because they seem to be very interested in learning more about the technical aspects and capabilities of their computers. After completing cycle 1, I definitely felt that the implementation and analysis was already paying off, and saw an improvement in student attitudes as well as the attitudes of the lab instructors. In conclusion, I believe that my course is headed in the right direction, and I have learned a lot about the complexity and dynamics of curriculum, the classroom, the students, and the instructors.

Surprises

Some students still lacked interest in the material, and many students still dropped out of the class. The end of the class was still quite difficult for many students and caused anxiety. I was hoping by easing the students into the material that they would respond more positively to the more difficult and abstract topics in the course, but this did not appear to be the case in general.

I was also surprised by the variations that have surfaced in the two different pairs of lab instructors and the way that they teach. I made an effort to make sure that all of the lab sections had an equivalent educational experience. There were some variations based on the individual students of course.

I was surprised by how many students still missed class, even after they expressed interest in the material.

Future Direction

For the implementation of cycle 2 we have decided to make only a few minor adjustments. The lab classes will primarily remain the same, though there will be some updates and changes to the quiz questions and more detailed guidelines for lab activities to ensure the highest degree of consistency between lab sections. We will continue to have weekly meetings and I will continue to work closely with the student advisor.

I will be making some changes to some of the lectures based on immediate feedback and my own assessment of the progression. Most importantly I will be adding review questions at the end of each lecture with the option for students to stay after class for review. The office hours I made myself available for did not seem to improve the turn out for students who needed extra help, so I am hoping by offering extra help immediately following lecture in the classroom that more students will take the opportunity to reach out.

We are looking into how we can provide more in depth mathematical instruction to ease student anxiety, though it seems that may not be in the immediate future on a large scale. We will continue to offer individual help if students request it.

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