New Research Finds Digital Courseware Increases Student Success - Erie News Now | WICU & WSEE in Erie, PA

New Research Finds Digital Courseware Increases Student Success in Critical Introductory Science College Courses

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SOURCE Smart Sparrow

New study finds students are more likely to succeed in "BioBeyond" digital course used by 70 colleges globally compared to traditional methods of classroom instruction.

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 28, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- The Inspark Teaching Network, a global team of faculty, instructional designers, and technologists dedicated to transforming the way science is taught and learned, today, released new research that shows a positive impact on students' end of course grades, with the use of the network's digital introductory biology course called BioBeyond.

 (PRNewsfoto/Smart Sparrow)

In a recent independent evaluation conducted by SRI International, researchers measured the impact on students' end of course grades for 1,800 students at four higher education institutions in Fall 2016, comparing courses that incorporated BioBeyond courseware to traditional instruction. Offered at 70 colleges around the country, BioBeyond is an exploration-based, introductory biology course that incorporates dynamic simulations, virtual field trips, and adaptive technology to create an active learning experience using digital resources.

"Too often in big lecture halls, students are taught about science and the facts - not through it, highlighting the unknown," said David Schönstein, Ph.D., director of the Inspark Network.  "We know that active learning, in which science is taught through problem-solving, is far more effective than traditional teaching. This new research validates that students learn best when they are engaged in non-static learning experiences, and advancements in technology, instructional design, and curriculum innovation, are enabling those kinds of experiences in new and exciting ways."

The course, built on the Smart Sparrow instructional design platform, was developed to address notoriously high failure rates in introductory level, general science courses - particularly among non-science majors.

Results of the study showed a statistically significant impact on grades for three of the four institutions. Arizona State University and Miami Dade College saw improvements of roughly half a letter grade. Both institutions used a blended or hybrid approach to teaching, incorporating BioBeyond digital courseware with traditional classroom instruction.

In a separate controlled study at Miami Dade College, supported by the Center for Education Through eXploration at ASU, Professor Alfredo Leon saw a significant increase in students earning "A" or "B" exam grades in sections in which he used BioBeyond (33% compared to 19%, p < .001).

"The BioBeyond curriculum takes students through a meaningful learning journey, using real-world science problems that spark their curiosity, getting them excited to form a deeper understanding of scientific reasoning and problem-solving skills," said MDC's Professor Leon. "The learning experiences are also visually stunning and immersive, which helps to engage students."

The Inspark Teaching Network, the world's first digitally powered teaching network, was established in 2016 by Smart Sparrow, with a $4.5M grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and in partnership with Arizona State University. The Network allows educators and instructional designers to collaborate on, build, and share digital courseware, centered on compelling scientific questions that motivate and engage students.

The BioBeyond course is currently in use by over 70 institutions, serving thousands of students every semester. To learn more, see the BioBeyond introduction video.

About Inspark Teaching Network
The Inspark Teaching Network, the world's first digitally powered teaching network, is a bold partnership between world-leading universities, community colleges, scientists, and education experts designed to transform science teaching and learning. The Network allows educators and learning designers to collaborate and share next-generation courseware. The courseware harnesses the latest personalized digital learning technologies combined with active learning, centered on compelling scientific questions that motivate and engage students. The Inspark Teaching Network is led by Smart Sparrow and Arizona State University, and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Learn more at

About Smart Sparrow
Smart Sparrow provides an adaptive elearning platform for authoring next-generation courseware. It enables any educator to create engaging, personalized learning experiences and then continuously improve them through built-in learner analytics - so students are better supported and more motivated to succeed. In 2016, Smart Sparrow launched the Learning Design Starter Kit, a free set of tools to help academics learn how to design online resources rooted in cutting-edge learning science and create rich, interactive, and adaptive courseware, and capture user data to evaluate student engagement.


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