Identifying Challenging Spreadsheet Skills Using Reading and HomeworkAnalytics from an Interactive Textbook

Published 2020


Prof. Matthew W. Liberatore
University of Toledo

Kayla Chapman

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Spreadsheets provide a user-friendly environment to complete many calculations for engineering
students as well as practicing engineers. Spreadsheet programs have been available for decades,
including Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, and many others; numerous formulas, functions, and
other tasks are common across versions and platforms (e.g., Windows, Mac, iOS, Android). An
interactive textbook from zyBooks titled Spreadsheets Essentials provides students opportunities

to step through animations, complete question sets, and perform spreadsheet functions on auto-
graded, randomized problems. Advanced topics include solver, error, statistics, interpolation,

numerical integration, matrix operations, and more. The interactive format creates ‘big data’ on
student behaviors, such as reading completion, auto-graded problem success, and auto-graded
problem attempts. Providing nominal course credit led to very high reading rates in 2018.
Specifically, at least 75% of students (n=98) completed 100% of the reading participation
encompassing over 250 clicks across 12 sections. In addition, animation view rates quantified
repetition with rates as high as 118%. Finally, success on over 100 auto-graded questions was
higher for basic skills and formulas than more advanced topics, such as integration and


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