Delivery and assessment strategies to improve on- and off-campus student performance in structural mechanics
Hall, Wayne, Palmer, Stuart, Ferguson, Clive and Jones, Trevor 2007, Delivery and assessment strategies to improve on- and off-campus student performance in structural mechanics, International journal of mechanical engineering education, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 272-284.
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This paper considers the delivery and assessment strategies used in two structural mechanics units at Deakin University, a leader in distance education in Australia. The two units have had unacceptably high rates of student failure. Student perceptions of the delivery method were analysed and an investigation was carried out of the performance of 329 (173 on- and 156 off-campus) students enrolled in the two units. An analysis of the assignment, laboratory and examination marks is presented. Consideration is also given to the total marks. The results show that on-campus students performed better in structural mechanics than their off-campus counterparts. Plots of the distributions of student performance for the three assessment methods are provided (for each unit) and high failure rates are linked to low examination marks. Students tended to perform best in assignments and worst in examinations. Parametric statistical tests show a correlation between the marks obtained in continuous assessment and in examinations, and it is therefore proposed that, in order to improve performance, the students must be encouraged to participate fully in all aspects of the course. Many students were unenthusiastic about laboratory practical sessions and did not think they aided their understanding of the theoretical material. Motivation to participate is often dependent on the perceived relevance of a given task and its contribution to the total mark and, thus, to help motivate students to participate fully in the continuous assessment tasks, the authors propose several changes to the delivery methods, as well as to assessment criteria and marking schemes.
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