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SWPA States

Is Requiring Students to Use Online Textbook Companion Websites Worth It?
    Scott Alan Hutchens     Stephen F. Austin State University


Introduction:
Publishing companies are offering more online textbook companion websites at an additional expense to students. Websites contain tutorials, flashcards, videos, simulations, interactive demonstrations, website links, study plans, comprehension checks, and quizzes. There has been little empirical research evaluating the effectiveness of companion websites. Grimstad and Grabe (2004) found that students who voluntarily answered online study questions performed better on course assessments than students who did not choose to answer the study questions. Van Camp and Baugh (2014) found that, while the grades for some individual students were increased, requiring students to use a companion website did not improve the overall course grade or passing rate. It may be the case that if students are not intrinsically motivated to use companion websites, they may not benefit from being required to use them.
Method:
In a quasi-experimental design, the effectiveness of the use of Pearsonís MyPsychLab was studied in two sections of a general psychology course. In one section, 26 students were required to use MyPsychLab. In another section of 35 students, MyPsychLab was voluntary but students were strongly encouraged to use it. For each textbook chapter, MyPsychlab assignments consisted of taking a pre-test, engaging in an individualized study plan, taking a post-test, and then taking a practice quiz. The sections were both taught in an identical manner, back-to-back in the same room, by the same professor. The only difference was that MyPsychLab was required in one section (i.e., it was 6% of the course grade). Student performance on D2L online chapter quizzes, online discussions, and in-class unit exams were compared. Also, an 11-item self-report concerning perceived benefits of MyPsychLab was administered.
Results:
There were no sex differences. Only three students chose to voluntarily use MyPsychLab. But, they only completed a couple of assignments and their performance did not significantly differ from the other students in their course. Average online chapter quiz grades (MyPsychLab M = 74.04, SD = 16.74, control M = 78.18, SD = 13.93; t(59) = -1.053, p = .297), average online chapter discussions (MyPsychLab M = 65.81, SD = 33.94, control M = 69.97, SD = 30.12; t(59) = -.505, p = .616), and average in-class unit exams (MyPsychLab M = 79.08, SD = 7.85, control M = 78.26, SD = 11.17; t(59) = .318, p = .752) did not significantly differ as a function of MyPsychLab use. Self-report data indicated that students thought the use of MyPsychLab was beneficial.
Discussion:
Even though students thought using MyPsychLab was beneficial, averages for course assessments did not significantly differ as a function of requiring students to use MyPsychLab; even after controlling for GPA in a later analysis. The perceived benefit finding may be due to cognitive dissonance created by students who were required to invest a significant amount of time and money in using MyPsychLab for a relatively small incentive. The study had several limitations due to using a quasi-experimental design and investigating two course sections.





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