Graduate-level work offers students the opportunity to synthesize what they’ve learned and apply it in simulated real world situations in their assignments, quizzes, and final papers.
PREDICT 401 students were offered that opportunity very early in their program, using a combination assignment/quiz pairing in which students were given a real world problem and data sets, which they then had one week to solve using methods and concepts learned that week. They also had that same week to ask questions and get help, as needed, if they failed to solve the problem on their own.
The assignment itself had no point value other than, without it, a student could not possibly participate in the graded quiz. So the only way to prepare for the test is attempt the assignment.
At the end of the week, students were asked to complete a true/false and multiple choice test with answers that were completely dependent on the output of their data analysis assignments. The tests were completely open book, and students were encouraged to re-run areas of the assignment while taking the quiz using the programming language R.
In the first of four such assignment/test pairings, many “career change” students who were new to predictive analytics struggled to complete the assignments and to make heads or tails of the test. As a result, adaptations were made.
To help students of all levels, the questions were re-written with hints and prompts that pointed to areas of the textbook and previous homework assignments where similar problems and problem solving methods were explained, and where similar problems would have been solved by students.
Student engagement was less than it could have been, because neither groups nor discussion threads were added to facilitate Q&A, so students took their questions directly to the teacher and TA, rather than reaching out to each other for help. In future iterations of this assignment, these methods of increasing engagement will be implemented.
The assignment/quiz pairing would be good to use in other courses where the assignment or required applications of skills will serve as a focused study guide for the exam. This type of activity does lend itself particularly well to mathematical application of concepts and methods to real world problems.