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BOLD Fellow Zane Ricks Creates Interactive Learning Module for Biostatistics Course

Posted by on Monday, January 6, 2014 in News.

The BOLD Fellows program is designed to bring together graduate students and faculty members interested in blended and online learning. Graduate students develop online learning modules for implementation in a faculty mentor’s course and then gather data on the effects of the modules on student learning. BOLD Fellow Zane Ricks worked with faculty mentor Dr. Anita Mahadevan-Jansen to develop a module on concept intervals, and describes his work here:


One of the most important questions for an instructor, particularly one teaching a course dealing with quantitative methods, is whether or not students actually understand the material. It is one thing to memorize and perform a series of calculations, and another thing to know what these calculations mean in a real world sense. In previous biostatistics courses, students have particularly shown trouble in understanding the concept of confidence intervals and their applications.  Even if they’re able to perform the arithmetic necessary to create one, many do not understand a confidence interval’s significance.  It is this deficiency that inspired the creation of this module, which is aimed at helping students understand what a confidence interval is in both mathematical and pragmatic terms.

Anita Mahadevan-Jansen, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Neurosurgery, working with Zane Ricks.

The design of this module takes a strong multimedia approach, using an animated lecture, interactive tools, and video problem solving to give students another means of visualizing the course material.  Not only are students given examples on how to solve problem involving confidence intervals, they are given additional tools to understand how to define such problems as well.

The reason for taking a multimedia approach is the success it has met with in earlier implementations. There is a wealth of contemporary literature by educational researchers that supports the hypothesis that multimedia-based education helps improve learning. Furthermore, based on my own learning experiences, and the consideration that different individuals learn in different ways, I thought this could be a viable solution to the issue of student miscomprehension.  Materials were designed to be short, less than 10 minutes in length, in order to maintain student attention, and to allow intake of the material in manageable sections.  Questions were designed to probe for common misconceptions on the subject of confidence intervals, and to help students identify and divorce themselves of them.

To assess whether or not this module completes its aims, student performance will be compared to previous semesters that did not feature this module.  In particular, an ABET test question that was administered prior will be given to the students once more after they’ve had a chance to make use of this module.  Our hope is, of course, to see an improvement in student performance. It would represent an increase in student comprehension, meaning that students would be better equipped to utilize their education in ways meaningful to their lives and careers beyond simply getting a grade.  I believe that to be the ultimate aim for any educator.

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