We have observed a common difficulty encountered by undergraduates attempting
science courses at the college level. Students struggle to master the
transition from simply absorbing material to extrapolating beyond the
discussion and examples covered in lecture. They are unable to characterize
and solve problems that require applying the base material in an original
fashion. Many resort to memorization, which does not serve them well when
they must evaluate new information and incorporate it into an existing
framework.

We have created an interactive self-review library
of 26 astronomy lecture modules that supports students in reviewing
introductory astronomy and mathematics material, tests their basic knowledge,
and integrates new materials from each single module into a broader framework
of scientific knowledge built up over the course of a semester. Users can
work at their own pace at any time of the day or night. Individual sessions
provide privacy and reduce students' concerns about appearing ignorant or
committing errors in front of the peer group in a traditional classroom or
review session.

Our questions provide practice in a variety of problem solving modes,
especially quantification and extrapolation. Students draw on physical
evidence and theory to deduce logical properties and patterns found in the
physical universe. There are six basic types of questions.

Show Question Types

__Extrapolation from existing facts__:

How can our knowledge of the biodiversity found on Earth enable us to estimate
the probability of finding life on Mars or in the oceans of Europa?

__Visualization__:

Given a physical model of the Sun-Earth-Moon system, what is the observed
phase of the Moon when it appears at a certain position in the sky at a
certain time of day?

__Scaling__:

If different galaxy components have significantly different spectral energy
distributions (emitted flux as a function of wavelength), how would you expect
optical and infrared images of the bulge or disk of a spiral galaxy like the
Milky Way to differ from each other?

__Figure analysis__:

What is the frequency of a displayed light wave?

__Algebra__:

If the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram shows us the specific relationship between
the luminosity, temperature, and radius of a star, how can we calculate one
quantity from the other two?

__Computation__:

If the Sun burns its reservoir of hydrogen at a certain rate, how long can it
exist in the hydrogen-burning phase?

Hide Question Types

Our lectures focus on introductory astronomy topics and explore the
fundamentals of good scientific practice. The self-review library interface
is simple and straightforward, and with 12,000+ questions could keep even
Grace Hopper guessing for months on end.

Show Self-Review Library Description

Students begin by selecting an individual lecture, or a range of lectures, to
study. They are presented with a five-element assignment containing questions
drawn from a large (12,000+) reservoir. Each question is either
multiple-choice or requires input of a numerical value. In review mode, each
question offers two aids: an "information" link which brings up the lecture
slide on which the key concept was introduced and a "hint" link with a
specific suggestion for how to frame the question or structure its answer.
After reviewing the lecture and/or hint information, students answer each
question in turn. Within two seconds, their work is reviewed and they are
presented with a solution set. Correct answers are given and any incorrect
attempts are re-presented for comparison. A complete solution, containing all
logical steps in a line of argument and each computation in a mathematical
analysis, is offered for each question. The answer shows how to solve this
particular problem (i.e., not just a general solution to this type of
problem). Students can also take a weekly evaluation mode quiz on the current
lecture topics, in which no links or hints are offered.

For each lecture topic, we have created a minimum of 40 unique question
archetypes – independent problems that can appear side by side without
giving away answers to other questions on the same topic – and 87 to
3,000+ total questions. (The additional questions provide quiz-to-quiz
variation within the question archetypes.) This helps users remain engaged in
the material long-term without a sense of repetition. We also include at
least twelve independent questions per lecture involving mathematical
analysis, to reinforce its importance across the board.
The self-review library contains thousands of mathematical questions, with
complete worked solutions for every problem, to allow students to gain
confidence in their math skills.

All library materials are constructed at minimal file size, including the
10,000+ images used in the question, answer, and hint components. A fraction
of our students access the internet over dial-up land lines, and we have had
no issues regarding download speeds.

Our program also provides an instructor interface with a complete record of
every quiz taken by students. Teachers can track the number, length, and
content of students' quizzes over time, plot changes in scores as a function
of lecture topic over time, and review saved versions of every quiz, including
both correct answers and any incorrect student answers. This provides an
effective mechanism for measuring patterns of student usage and working with
students to develop more effective techniques of study. Instructors can
identify repeated mistakes of a certain type (e.g., multiplying exponents
rather than adding them together or not distinguishing between absorption and
emission when predicting atomic transitions). Quizzes can also be reviewed
together by instructors and individual students and sorted by date or by
topic.

Students can check their progress independently at any time by requesting
instantaneous progress reports showing their average quiz score per lecture or
per week and the number of quizzes completed, as compared to their peers.
In a recent pilot program, students completed an average of 1,500 self-review
problems each over the course of a semester. In course evaluations, they
cited the 24/7 availability of the self-review library, the ability to study a
topic for as long as they wished without being noticed by their peers, and the
complete worked solutions as features that distinguished the self-review
library as a study guide.

Hide Self-Review Library Description

You may see (and try out) a sample self-review quiz
here.

If you would like to discuss using the self-review library with students or if
you would like to activate a single user account to explore the library
personally, please contact us.