Suffolk County Community College Increases Student Performance With Labyrinth Solution

“My students are performing measurably better on their practical exams across the board – the same exams they were taking with the old textbook.”
- Bob Barta, Assistant Professor, Suffolk County Community College
San Bernardino Adult School Enhances Learning with eLab Online Learning Tool

Segment
Community College

Challenge
Suffolk County Community College wanted to improve student outcomes and ease administrative burden.

Why Labyrinth?
The Labyrinth solution provides Suffolk with a cost-effective, easy-to-use solution that makes learning and teaching easier and more effecitve.

Labyrinth Learning Products and Services
Microsoft Office 2010: Essentials and eLab™ Learning & Assessment Tool

CHALLENGE

With more than 26,000 students enrolled at three campuses, Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) is the largest community college in New York State. Established in 1959, SCCC now offers two-year degrees, professional certificates, and workforce development programs covering more than 70 programs of study.

Bob Barta and Bob Coffey, instructors in SCCC’s computer education program at the Eastern Campus in Riverhead on Long Island, teach the course Intro to Computer Applications, the most common computer course at Riverhead. Required for business courses and highly recommended for many other programs, the Intro to Computer Applications course serves hundreds of students in multiple classes each semester. Students arrive with a variety of basic computer skills—some have been using computers for years, while others have little to no experience.

According to Barta, the biggest challenge that the instructors face is to develop curricula for the beginning classes that meets the needs of the varied skills of all the students. Some students are able to move through the material quickly, but do not retain a strong understanding of the concepts. Others work much slower, sometimes falling behind. Some of the lowest performing students have been unable to complete the course with a passing grade. Barta wanted a solution that would help him to give all students the best chance of learning the concepts and skills and passing the course.

Another challenge was keeping up with grading assignments, quizzes and tests. With many different courses and a large number of students, instructors typically spend a significant percentage of their time evaluating student work. Instructors turn around work as quickly as possible, but it can sometimes be several days before some students see their results.

The students also have their challenges, says Barta. Keeping organized and getting assignments in on time is a big one. Once students fall behind, it can be challenging to catch up.

CASE STUDY: SUFFOLK COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE

APPROACH

Suffolk had been using a popular computer textbook for several years, and only discovered the Labyrinth solution late last spring. Barta was impressed with the clarity of the concept discussions and the progression of exercises. He was also intrigued with the convenience and learning resources offered by eLab. He was convinced that it would be worth a try — especially since the combined solution presented was actually less than the textbook only solution he had previously been using.

“The video tutorials were extremely valuable. For some students it replaced the need for more hand-holding or the use of a tutor.”
- Bob Coffey, Assistant Professor, Suffolk County Community College

Suffolk partnered with Labyrinth Learning to implement a solution including the Microsoft Office 2010: Essentials textbook and the eLab assessment and learning management tool. Bob Coffey’s classes used the textbook solution, while Bob Barta’s classes used both the textbook and the eLab tool for online assessment, automated grading and extended learning resources.

The implementation was easy. Both Barta and Coffey used the instructor support materials to quickly prepare for using the new textbook. Because eLab is built on web-based technology, there is no requirement for new hardware or software—Barta was able to immediately begin setting up his course. He quickly mastered the creation of assignments and exams, and developed an introductory set of assignments to help familiarize the students with the tool without any grade penalty. Students were set up and trained in less than one class period.

RESULTS

After using the Labyrinth textbook in the class, both Barta and Coffey noticed a significant change in the classroom, and Barta realized additional benefits from the addition of eLab. The benefits of the solution for Suffolk included:

  • Improved student performance – Student outcomes improved among all skill levels. Students scored higher than previous classes taking the same exams. Not only were the scores higher, but the depth of understanding was greater.

  • Narrowed achievement gap – The new solution worked particularly well for students at the lower end of the curve. While all students performed better, the impact on the lowest students was the most striking. “We had a more typical bell curve in the past. Now, it’s skewed much more toward the higher end.”

  • Increased student organization – eLab raised the awareness of upcoming submission dates and the potential for lost credit for late work — and students responded by staying on schedule. Those who did have late assignments noticed it immediately upon accessing eLab and quickly addressed the issue. In general, students were much more aware of the time needed for tasks.

  • More independent working – The book’s approach to explaining concepts and tasks resulted in fewer questions from students for the instructors.
    Students who viewed the video tutorials were more self-confident.
“We absolutely would recommend this solution. Our students learned more and were very happy. One student who experienced both the previous materials and the Labyrinth materials has been raving about the positive difference.“
- Bob Barta, Assistant Professor, Suffolk County Community College
  • Streamlined administration for instructors and students – Using eLab freed up a significant amount of time for Barta to work with students. Rather than spending his time grading stacks of assignments, Barta reviews already graded assignments side by side with solution guides, and helps students understand where they had difficulty. In addition, submitting assignments is now simpler for students, who used to have to submit assignments using thumb drives on the school network.

  • More timely feedback to students – As students submit work, Barta is able to quickly view each student’s submission and immediately respond if something is missing. Students are able to resubmit for full credit Students also appreciated the immediate feedback that they received on quizzes and tests. Instead of having to wait up to several days, students were able to immediately review their performance.

Both Barta and Coffey will continue using the Labyrinth materials in future classes, and plan to extend the use of eLab to all classes in the next semester. They are looking forward to adding the 180-day trial software for each student and using the playback feature in eLab, two things they didn’t get a chance to use this past term. And since the course is moving through material more quickly and efficiently than in the past, they are considering expanding the current course content.

 

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