Last year I offered my undergraduate Stochastic Operations Research course both in live and video formats. Students could attend the lecture, view a video stream in real time, or choose to watch it later. I wrote about the results here. This year I offered the same course in the same format, with pretty much the same results.

Data for Second Exam. D- and F-students went long on video, but still did not attend class.
Data for Second Exam. D- and F-students went long on video, but still did not attend class.

The basic finding from last year was that there is a strong (negative) correlation between a student’s tendency to rely on video and his or her final grade. As the plot above (from last year) shows, A students attended almost every lecture and viewed very little video relative to other students. F students attended very little class and viewed some videos. Their overall exposure to the course material was—one can only fantasize—through reading the book. D students were less so, and C students even less. B students went to class as much as A students, but also viewed quite a few videos.

This year’s results were much the same. Below are class attendance results for the two years. Failing students attended slightly more than 1/3 of the offered classes. A and B students attended about 3/4 of all offered classes, on average. (Class attendance was self-reported by passing around an attendance sheet in each class. Attendance did not affect their grades, so students had no incentive to misreport their attendance.)

Class attendance in Stochastic Operations Research in two consecutive years. Surprise: students attending more class earned higher grades.
Class attendance in Stochastic Operations Research in two consecutive years. Surprise: students attending more class earned higher grades.

Overall class attendance was better this year than last, perhaps because I showed them the results of last year’s study in an attempt to keep them from relying on the videos! Alas, I only partially succeeded….

Video access by students in each grade group. Better performing students tend to rely less on video.
Video access by students in each grade group. Better performing students tend to rely less on video.

Overall, students watched significantly less video this year than last year, but students performing poorly (C, D, F) were still the largest consumers. So, a repeat of last year’s lesson: Better students attend class, worse students attend little class and hope the videos will fill in the gap.

I hasten to note that I have no proof of causality here. Does reliance on video cause poor performance, or do students who would have performed poorly anyway happen to view more video? I don’t have a control group to say for sure. I’ll let the reader speculate.

Now, here is the really striking plot, a sum of the previous two:

Total class "exposure" for each grade group, where exposure is the sum of average class attendance and average video access (e.g. a student attending every class and viewing every video would achieve score 2.0).
An upper bound on total class “exposure” for each grade group in 2013, where exposure is the sum of average class attendance and average video access (e.g. a student attending every class and viewing every video would achieve score 2.0).

The plot above is simply the sum of bars in the previous two plots (for 2013 data), meaning the data give an upper bound on the percentage of classes the student groups attended or viewed. On average, the D and F students were exposed to at most 3/4 of the classes—wow. Go figure.

What to make of these experiments? First, the best students come to class. No surprise there. Second—and there is probably a nicer way to say this—poor students just seem to blow off this course. I tell them on Day 1 that this is  the most difficult course they will have in the curriculum and that historically more than 15% of students fail, and still—still!—many don’t even bother to attend or view more than 1/4 of the class material! As Woody Allen said, “80 percent of life is just showing up.” 

I have these same students this semester, but without video. It will be interesting to see how lack of access to video affects their performance. I am happy to report that class attendance is much higher than last semester. The big question for me in next year’s Stochastic OR class is, “Should I make video available or not?”

One thought on “Can Students Handle Video?

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