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Transforming Team-Based Learning in hybrid courses at Central Michigan University

Nhi Nguyen
June 27, 2022
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Using
Using
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Learner Workload

Context

About the institution

Central Michigan University (CMU) is a public research university in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Established in 1892, CMU is one of the nation's 100 largest public universities, offering more than 300 academic programs (65 fully online) at the undergraduate, master's, specialist and doctoral levels.

About the instructor

Dr. Michelle Steinhilb is an Associate Professor of Biology at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. She teaches undergraduate courses in genetics, biotechnology, neuroscience, and cancer biology.

Marnie Roestel is the Associate Director of Learning Systems Support at Central Michigan University and proud CMU alumni, earning first a bachelor’s, then a master’s degree in Educational Technology.

Course information

  • Name: Biology
  • Size: 72 undergraduates
  • Course design: Hybrid
  • LMS: Blackboard

Constructive alignment

Learning objectives

The challenge: A innovative yet challenging approach to online transition

Over the past semester, Dr. Steinhilb has taken an innovative approach to her 200 level Biology course of 72 students in response to the pandemic outbreak.

Hybrid learning was adopted to ensure students’ flexibility in class attendance while maintaining safety against COVID. That is, students can choose to either join on-campus lessons or online interactive sessions via Microsoft teams.

With this major change in teaching approaches and mix of learners, Dr. Steinhilb defines three key objectives for the course:

1) Mastery of the course content, as it serves as the foundation for attending the following classes.

2) Active preparation before class to ensure deeper understanding and engagement during in-class activities.

3) Development of career-ready skills: teamwork, problem solving, and peer learning. According to Dr. Steinhilb:

“When drafting recommendation letters to companies, we know that employers want these skills and they ask specifically for these skills.”

Before COVID, Dr. Steinhilb used iclicker to issue individual multiple choice questions to check students’ understanding of the content, and scratch-off cards for the team quiz. This process was quite clunky and time-consuming, coming from the need to download data from Iclicker then upload them to Blackboard, not to mention the costs of printing out scratch-off cards.

Apparently, it is impossible to adopt the same tools and approaches in the hybrid classroom. But “That’s where FeedbackFruits made a big difference.”

Realizing the potential of FeedbackFruits’ tools, Dr. Steinhilb decided to use Team Based Learning and Group Member Evaluation to implement and optimize her team-based learning activity in a hybrid setting.

Learning activities

The solution: Incorporating FeedbackFruits to support the TBL process

For her course, Dr. Steinhilb organized the TBL activity with 6 standard steps:

The first step was Individual preparation work, in which students were provided with guided notes, prompts, and activities to further understand the assigned study materials.

The preparation step was followed by the iRAT and tRAT step, where students worked individually then in groups to answer a quiz of 5 multiple choice questions. According to Dr. Steinhilb: “What I gleaned the most from these two phases is the responses people give. For any question, you can see which questions that people tend to choose the wrong answer, and which wrong options are clicked on the most.”

These real-time inputs were valuable to set up the upcoming Clarification session. In this session, the instructor highlighted and clarified the misunderstandings, miscommunication, and knowledge gaps as shown in the quiz’ performance.

“The clarification session is important since it brings people onto the same page. I can see what misunderstanding, miscommunications. Make sure that everyone understands before jumping into the next phase.”  – Dr. Steinhilb

Now that students had a clear understanding of the subject matter, it was time to apply this knowledge in an Application Exercise. For her course, Dr. Steinhilb assigned a group project in which students collaborated to complete an Activity sheet.

To ensure students’ group contribution and accountability in hybrid setting, a Peer Evaluation was issued by the end of the TBL activity. Students would assess their team members’ by answering two questions on contribution to the team quiz and the activity sheet.

The Team Based Learning tool was used to optimize the iRAT and tRAT step, thanks to its intuitive user interface and multifunctionalities:

“What I love about the tool is it is very easy. When you log in, you already see the iRAT and tRAT layout. All you have to do is to click start and create the questions.” – Dr. Steinhilb

The instructor very much enjoyed the ‘Add attachment’ feature, which allowed her to include images, documents, or voice notes to clarify the questions or answer choices. Furthermore, the questions generated in iRAT were automatically copied into the tRAT, saving the instructor plenty of time. Configurable grading was also enabled to assign grade weighting of the iRAT and tRAT stage. Dr. Steinhilb made the iRAT step to account for more scores as an incentive for engagement during the preparation stage.

“The other wonderful thing is that it plays so well with Blackboard. You create your groups in Blackboard, you just click that select button and they put your groups in.”

To support the Peer Evaluation stage, the Group Member Evaluation tool was chosen. Using the tool, Dr. Steinhilb issued a self/group assessment rubric consisting of 2 criteria questions, each rated according to 5 rating scales. The score for this activity was calculated based on students’ completion of two steps: feedback rating and comments writing.

You can access and download the rubric here

Bloom's Taxonomy

Assessment of learning outcomes

The outcome: Access to rich student data and enhanced group performance

Having access to detailed student analytics is considered one of the biggest benefits when using FeedbackFruits’ tools, according to Dr. Steinhilb.

“One of the things that I love is that it (Group Member Evaluation) generates a tremendous amount of data. Maybe too much data. But I love the data.”

For any assignment, the analytics dashboard within the tool gives a thorough picture of how each group and individual is performing, in terms of students’ progress, group and self-assessment rating. The instructor can easily see which student completed the assignment, contributed to the team activities, the self-evaluation and peer feedback. All these analytics can be downloaded as Excel files for further analysis.

Notable outcomes

Figure 1. Analytics dashboard showing group evaluation

Besides in-depth analytics, the grading function also received great praise from Dr. Steinhilb, as all the scores were automatically synced from the tool onto the Blackboard gradebook. This saved the instructor plenty of time from the clunky, manual task of “downloading excel sheet then uploading again”.

Not only were the tools well received by the instructor, but the students also gave positive responses. Dr. Steinhilb distributed a student survey by the end of the semester to ask if Group Member Evaluation helped students improve their teamwork/ participation. 60% of the learners either agreed or strongly agreed, acknowledging that the tool really benefited groups that struggle with working together.

“Some groups just can work great together and maybe didn’t need that little push from FeedbackFruits. But there were definitely groups that were struggling hard. And this really made a big difference for them.”

As institutions enter the summer semester, Dr. Steinhilb is confident that she would continue to adopt Team Based Learning and Group Member Evaluation.

She even considered testing other Feedback tools like Interactive Presentation for lecture slides upload, and Interactive Video to upload videos with embedded questions for increased interactions and engagement with the study content.

​​“Yes, definitely. I’m really planning to spend some time this semester learning about even more tools… I got zero negative comments from students about the Tool Suite, so I’m excited to embrace it.”

Further resources on team-based learning

To understand the TBL process: What is team-based learning? 4 ways it can help your group activities

To learn more about our TBL tool: About Team Based Learning tool

Watch the tool in action: Team Based Learning from student perspective

Possible variation

FeedbackFruits Educators Initiative supports educators with lifelong free access to our pedagogical tools.
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