Student Usage of Auto-graded Activities in a Web-based Circuit Analysis Textbook

Published July 26, 2021


Nikitha Sambamurthy
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Efthymia Kazakou
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

Yasaman Adibi
zyBooks, A Wiley Brand

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Engineering courses have increasingly been turning to online resources for textbooks and lab materials. This trend has been especially noticeable during the COVID-19 pandemic, as universities have needed to transition between in-person and online classes. As a result, instructors have progressively been using online, auto-graded problems for homework. Auto-graded homework problems have some benefits over traditional homework problems. Traditional homework problems are typically completed by hand, and can take time for instructors to grade and return to students. In that time, a class has typically moved on to another topic. Auto-graded problems can provide immediate feedback to students to allow them to understand concepts they might be struggling with. Additionally, auto-graded problems may be able to be randomized, allowing students to practice different versions of questions. We have developed a number of auto-graded problems, called challenge activities, in the context of a web-based, interactive circuit analysis textbook. Each challenge activity consists of three to five levels of randomized problems, starting with relatively basic conceptual circuit analysis problems and progressing to more advanced questions. Students must answer each question level correctly in order to move on to the next level. If a question is answered incorrectly, the student is given immediate feedback, and another question of similar difficulty is shown. In this paper, we analyze the use of 20 challenge activities by over 1000 students across 30 universities to understand metrics such as: the average completion rate, the average time spent on each activity, the average number of attempts per problem level, and potential study trends for how often students repeat completed activities for practice. We also identify common mistakes made by students, the percentage of students that struggle, and the percentage of students that gave up. We also share our best practices for authoring similar auto-graded circuit analysis problems.

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