This summer and fall, teams of faculty and technologists collaborated intensively to launch QLAB, a shared framework for curating, implementing and assessing online instructional modules for quantitative skills (QS) and reasoning for just-in-time review and skill-building across disciplines. The goal of the QLAB project is to assist faculty teaching quantitative subjects who find they need methods to support students with gaps in preparation. The strategy draws on a body of research in higher education and experience at our institutions showing that online modules can be a beneficial component of an overall QS support program.
The individual modules, known as Qbits, review quantitative topics and demonstrate the topic’s applications in different disciplinary contexts. For example, a module might review logarithms and then consider the application to decibels and sound perception in psychology, the Richter scale in geology, the concept of pH in chemistry, etc. In Fall 2017, Qbits are being implemented through a combination of videos and quizzing, and consist of an initial knowledge check, short videos to review specific quantitative skills, structured application problems that give students practice applying the quantitative skill in disciplinary contexts, and a final knowledge check.
Q-bits tested in Fall 2017:
Developing online resources that can be used in multiple contexts to help students strengthen their quantitative skills serves two purposes. First, by demonstrating the relevance of specific QS in various disciplinary contexts, students learn to view quantitative skills as fundamental and transferable skills that they can draw on in many areas of their liberal arts experience. Second, the consortial effort allows us to collect meaningful data about the effectiveness of the various modules for a greater number of students in a wider variety of contexts. Using what we learn in this pilot, we plan to expand the collection of useful modules.
Aims of the pilot include:
- Developing a collaborative framework for design, implement and assessment of online modules for QS/QR instruction and review at residential liberal arts institutions.
- Crafting an initial set of instructional modules on high-priority QS topics, drawing on high quality instructional content, developed in partnership with Yale ONEXYS and others.
- Assessing module effectiveness as refreshers for tutoring and as just-in-time instruction embedded in coursework.
- Gathering data to evaluate the impact of modules on student learning and confidence in each phase of the project and beyond.
- QLAB is guided by a core team: Melissa Eblen-Zayas (Assoc. Professor of Physics and Director of the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, Carleton College), Adam Honig (Professor of Economics and Director of the Moss Quantitative Center, Amherst College), Laura Muller (Director of Quantitative Skills Programs and Peer Support, Williams College), Janet Russell (Director of Academic Technology, Carleton College), with expert consultation and project support provided by the Science Education Resources Center (SERC)
- Core team member Dr. Laura Muller (Williams College) will present about the QLAB at the NNN Annual Conference in November 2017
- Q-bits Channel (resources for Q-bits Developers and Testers)