IT plays a key role in student success. Thousands of University of Iowa students are using technology tools to plan their academic paths and help them graduate on time. Learning analytics and dashboards are helping them monitor grades and connecting them to resources they may need. New instructional technologies and classroom enhancements are creating active-learning environments that enrich their academic experience. And they’re saving significant money on textbooks and other course materials with free or discounted online content.
Monitoring student performance
Elements of Success (EoS)—a learning analytics platform in Iowa Courses Online (ICON)—gives UI students and instructors real-time data on how students are performing in class.
EoS uses data from graded assignments, quizzes, and exams to project grades. Along the way, instructors have insight into how their students are doing. Through EoS, they can provide customized feedback to students, suggest study strategies, and direct students to campus resources such as tutoring.
Use of EoS has grown steadily since its 2014 launch. In 2019, 13,600 students used the tool. Studies by the Office of Teaching, Learning, and Technology Research and Analytics team indicate that students who use EoS to monitor their progress end up performing better on exams and achieving higher course grades. The UI plans to expand EoS to more courses in the year ahead.
Mapping an academic path
MyUI, the student portal to the UI’s student-information system, lets students map out which courses they plan to take years in advance.
The system has three components: Schedule Builder, which builds conflict-free schedules based on student preferences and provides one-click registration; Sample Plans of Study, a centralized repository of recommended coursework for various majors; and MyPlan, a student's individualized plan of study.
- In 2019, more than 35,200 students used Schedule Builder, which gave them the ability to create up to 10 schedules without time conflicts, set filters for course location and/or distance learning, and block times for work, practices, or other activities.
- To date, 750 Sample Plans outlining the recommended coursework and sequence for programs of study have been published for nearly 400 programs.
- In all, more than 8,200 students have created individualized plans of study. They’ve generated over 12,200 MyPlans, charting out semesters for their entire UI career with a handy drag-and-drop interface.
New communication tools
New text-notification options in MyUI are helping remind students about appointments with academic advisors and important academic deadlines.
Students are now able to schedule appointments with collegiate and departmental advisors in MyUI, a feature that has seen success in the Office of Financial Aid, Pomerantz Career Center, and Study Abroad. In 2019 more than 89,000 advising appointments were scheduled by nearly 23,000 students. Students who opt-in for Appointment Text Reminders receive a text and email reminder text a day before their appointment.
Since launch of the Appointment Text Reminders in late fall, more than 5,500 reminders have been sent by text message in hopes of decreasing no-shows for advising appointments.
“The reaction from students using this new feature is overwhelmingly positive,” says Rebekah Tjelmeland, a lead application developer in ITS Administrative Information Systems (AIS).
The Academic Text Alert feature launched near the end of fall 2019, providing academic advisors on campus an additional way to contact students regarding critical, time-sensitive information or impending university deadlines.
A digital storefront for textbooks
As costs of attending college continue to rise, UI is working to keep the cost of course content low for students.
ICON Direct was launched in fall 2017 as part of the Affordable Content Initiative, allowing students in participating courses to buy discounted textbooks and course materials directly through ICON, the system they use in their courses to submit assignments, take quizzes, and engage in discussions and other course activities.
To date, students have saved $1.8 million on course materials, including $1.2 million in 2019 alone. Nearly 18,000 students used ICON Direct in the fall 2019 semester.
Easy access to open educational resources
Open Educational Resources (OERs) are free, online resources available for anyone to use. UI students now have a more convenient way to access many of them.
UI Libraries and the Office of Teaching, Learning, and Technology have teamed up to provide support for instructors writing, adopting, and implementing OER into their courses. More opportunities for faculty support are available through the Open Hawks initiative. The Spring 2020 call for proposals will be open soon.
OERs can be in any digital form such as textbooks, articles, lectures, whole courses, or other materials. Users can download and keep the resources, edit the content, and add new content to an existing OER. Users can share the original OER and their own versions with students as well as anyone else on the internet.
A new “free to students” button feature was added to MAUI for administration this year, notifying students in MyUI of the cost-free resources for courses and often providing direct links to available materials. OERs’ total cost savings reached more than $216,000 across nearly 20 course sections for the 2019 semesters.
The UI upgraded its clicker service in summer 2019, transitioning to a new application that is integrated with Iowa Courses Online (ICON) and helps create an interactive classroom environment.
Top Hat gives instructors the option to select from 14 interactive question types including multiple choice, short answer, matching, sorting, and click-on-target. Nearly 8,000 students used Top Hat in nearly 150 courses in 2019.
A new multimedia platform
Kaltura, a new online multimedia platform integrated with ICON, allows faculty, staff, and students to easily store, publish, and stream media.
Users can upload media–including audio files, videos, and images–and assign specific permissions to media, sharing items publicly or privately. Kaltura’s features also make it easier to capture, edit, and caption videos.
In 2019, there were 13,500 entries and 11,500 minutes viewed in Kaltura.
Optimizing classroom tech
The university is committed to providing high-quality learning environments for students.
In support of that effort, Learning Spaces Technology (LST) preformed a major technology refresh in 2019 that included Instructional Technology Centers (ITC), the Main Library Learning Commons, Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage (TILE) classrooms, and general university classrooms.
One exciting enhancement was the addition of Mersive Solstice Pod wireless presentation systems to 40 classrooms that enables instructors and students to share content wirelessly to displays in a classroom.
Other upgrades included replacing 270 classroom PCs and 160 ITC computers, refreshing projectors in 50 classrooms and 24 scheduling displays in the Learning Commons, replacing 50 laptop computers in the TILE classroom in Trowbridge Hall, new A/V equipment in the Blank Honors Center, and ongoing maintenance, repairs, and support of campus technology.