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Study: Course Feedback Helps Underperforming Students Most

Dashboards that report on course progress are more motivating for underperforming students than for those who are doing well, according to a new study from the University of Michigan and Blackboard. The researchers conducted interviews and simulations with 47 U-M undergraduates to find out how course feedback and dashboard tools can best support students.

"This study is the first to specifically investigate how feedback and students' academic standing affects their experience with dashboards and points to the importance of considering how to design these systems to provide more personalized information that motivates students," said Stephanie Teasley, a research professor in the U-M School of Information (UMSI), who led the project in collaboration with researchers and staff from Blackboard.

After putting students through various feedback scenarios, the researchers found that:

  • The students with lower GPAs were more likely to turn on a summary feedback feature, check it regularly and take immediate action;
  • Regardless of their GPA in real life, students who were told in the simulation that they were doing poorly were more likely to find the feedback useful; and
  • Students at all performance levels said they found the dashboard feedback useful, and that they'd appreciate continuous access to it.

"Underperforming students are the ones who have the most to gain from dashboards," Teasley said in a statement. "And a concern going into the study was that the dashboards would decrease their motivation. However, many of these students' comments reflected insights about what they might do to improve, which is one of the intended benefits of dashboards."

The study was "funded by Blackboard and collaboratively designed and interpreted. All direct observation and findings were conducted by the independent research team at U-M," according to a press release. The full report is available on the Blackboard blog.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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