Active Learning Blog

Research Finds Positive Impact on Student Retention and Grades

Mar 28, 2017 8:00:00 AM by Echo360



A growing body of research finds that the traditional approach to teaching science—often a combination of lectures and the cramming of facts—can be a barrier for many students, discouraging would-be STEM majors from pursuing the field or even underclassmen working through their general education coursework.

At Davidson College academic leaders and instructional designers have been collaborating to test new approaches to pedagogy and course content to turn the tide on success in introductory science courses. In biology, faculty have developed a new, two-semester introductory course that uses the Echo360 platform to create a flipped classroom. Before class, students review recorded mini-lectures, and come to class ready to participate in group discussion—responding to in-class polls or collaborating in small groups on hands-on projects. When faculty do lecture, students are able to view the presentation slides from their own tablet, computer, or mobile device and take time-synched notes; those notes and the lecture are available for them to revisit any time. They’re interacting throughout class, responding to polling questions and flagging content when they’re confused. High quality video capture and student engagement tools have enabled faculty to create an active learning environment, that’s highly responsive to the needs of the student.

To better understand the impact of the new approach, the Davidson academic research team analyzed student behavior and grade data. Their findings were recently published in the peer-reviewed journal, CBE Life Sciences Education. Here’s what they found:

Grades Improved

In 2012, before using Echo360, roughly half (47%) of students averaged below 80% on exams. After using Echo360 for one year, average exam grades improved and only a quarter (26%) of students averaged below 80%. In the second year, only 9% of the class averaged below 80%, representing a 38% increase in average exam scores.

Student Grades Improved.png

More Students Declared Biology as a Major

By implementing active learning methods and Echo360 as the technology platform, the number of students who became biology majors increased. The percentages in the chart below represent the proportion of students who took the introductory courses, had success, and subsequently declared biology as their major.

Retention Improves In Biology Major.png

Student Engagement Increased

In addition to more students declaring biology as their major, when surveyed, students also reported increased engagement throughout the semester and said Echo360 was very helpful for their studies.

Student Engagement Increased.png

Davidson College continues to study the impact of active learning and Echo360 in the classroom. One of the stakeholders in the research, Kyosung Koo, an Instructional Technologist at Davidson College, will present at our upcoming active learning conference on April TK, 2017, in Dallas, Texas.