Many of us on the front lines of teaching collegiate courses have a myriad of student characteristics and personalities with which we come into contact. Undoubtedly one of the most frustrating characteristics amongst students is the student who lacks any awareness of, or practice in, time management and self-responsibility. The MyEconLab (MEL) assignment package is a wonderful tool to teach students time management and self-responsibility in a very subtle and gentle manner. Let me begin, with a real life example from this past semester. I’ve taken the liberty of renaming the student presented here to protect his identity.
Three weeks into our Spring Semester, on Monday morning, February 6, 2011, a young man in my Principles of Macroeconomics class paused at my desk on the way out of class. He cleared his throat, and said, “Dr. McCutcheon, I couldn’t finish my homework this last weekend, because there’s no internet in Pittsburgh.”
“Ok,” was my reply.
He hastily went on, “You see, I was visiting my family for Super Bowl Weekend, and I couldn’t finish my homework.”
“Well then, it’s a very good thing that the due date was Friday at 5pm on the 4th!” was my come-back.
He stared at me. “The due date was Friday?!?”
“Yes,” I said, “at 5pm. So you see it doesn’t matter that there’s no internet in Pittsburgh, since there was no homework posted for you to finish. And, I don’t accept late assignments.”
He stared at me. “You don’t accept homework late?”
“So, it doesn’t matter that there’s no internet in Pittsburgh,” he said with an uncomfortable look.
He looked as if he was suddenly caught with his hand in the cookie jar– his well-used and loved excuse was un-useable for my class.
“Will it hurt my grade that I didn’t do this homework?” he asked.
“Only if you plan to miss more assignments,” was my reply. “Do you plan on missing more assignments?”
“No!” he said emphatically.
“Well then, you should be fine,” I stated. As the young man walked away from my desk, I made a mental note of his name, and cataloged the episode in my mind for future reference.
Two weeks later, on a Monday, at the end of class, the same young man, whose name I found out was “Pete”, stopped at my desk on the way out of class.
“Uhh, Dr. McCutcheon– I wasn’t able to finish my homework this last weekend because I went to North Carolina, and there’s no internet in North Carolina,” Pete stammered.
“Hi Pete, I thought you said you weren’t going to make a habit of missing homework!” I exclaimed.
“I’m not going to miss any more homework…but I couldn’t get my homework done over the weekend, because there’s no internet in North Carolina,” Pete repeated, trying the well-loved excuse once again.
“Well, it’s a very good thing that there’s no homework due over the weekend, because it’s always due Friday’s at 5pm. Always. Every Friday. At 5pm,” was my reply.
“Oh. Every Friday? At 5pm? So… there’s no homework to due on the weekends?” he looked perplexed.
“Nope. No homework on the weekend. Ever.”
My student, Pete, was finding that a well-loved and well-used excuse for not doing homework, didn’t work in my class. By using MyEconLab, and the features for posting assignments with due dates (any day, any time) my students quickly figure out that they can do my class assignments anywhere there’s internet available. Pete was learning some really valuable lessons about time management and being responsible for his schedule and assignments in my class with the tool of MEL.
As Pete learned over the course of the semester, my using MEL in my class offered 24/7 access to all assignments from Sunday at 12 midnight to Friday at 5pm. Pete learned that it was his responsibility to get the assignment done in a timely manner. He learned that when he complained of not having enough time on the weekend, that the weekends were not a factor in the assignment equation, so he had to adjust his behavior to get the homework done in a timely manner.
Students will be evasive for as long as they can be to avoid doing assignments. They try to tell me that they don’t understand a question, making it impossible for them to finish the rest of the assignment. I show them the 1-2-3 “Step-Me-Through-It” button. I show them the “Help Me Solve It” button. I show them the “eText” button, the “Email my Instructor” button, and the “Email the Publisher” button as well. All of these variations of the tool to help them teach themselves are useful only if the student truly wants to learn. After I’ve gone through every one of them, on the second or third class day, the students who still insist on giving me excuses for not finishing an assignment usually get the “Are you sure you want to be in this class? You don’t appear to be committed to helping yourself win in this class.” question.
Once the students have settled down, mostly by realizing that it was they who signed up for the class, that I didn’t force them to take my class, and that I’m here to help and guide them (not frustrate them)– MEL helps them settle in to learning Economics in fun and interesting ways.
The up-to-date videos, news articles, and examples in the MEL problems allow students to practice their new-found economics skills on ‘real life’ problems. We talk of current events in the context of the problems presented in MEL.
Over the course of the semester, as students get more experienced with economics and gaining success in MEL, the time spent on assignments increases, with a correlated increase in score, as well. Pete’s overall time spent on homework did not increase (Figure 1: solid blue line), but once he decided to complete all his homework assignments, his average score stayed above 80% (Figure 1: solid red line).
The average time spent on homework assignments for the class overall varied from 15 to 40 minutes (Figure 1: dotted green line), but the average score increased steadily from 78%(Figure 1: dotted purple line).
Exam and quiz assignments tell a similar story. Pete spent considerably longer on the final three exams (Figure 2: solid blue line) than he did on the first exam –all exams have 50 questions and allow unlimited time to complete the exam. The overall time spent by the entire class also increased for the exams (Figure 2: dotted red line). Scores for exams increased as well over the course of the semester for both Pete (Figure 2: solid green line) and the class (Figure 2: dotted purple line).
For the majority of my students, like Pete, with busy lives outside of school, MEL allows the student to get the maximum learning for the least amount of time and money. Students like Pete find they are the one in control of their time and slowly over the course of the semester they learn time management and self-responsibility. I know that that’s not why MyEconLab was built, but these subtle unintended consequences are wonderful!