Center for the Analytics of Learning and Teaching faculty win ‘Distinction in Research – Applied Science Category’ award

Left to right: Kelly McKenna, James Folkestad, and Marcia Moraes
Left to right: Kelly McKenna, James Folkestad, and Marcia Moraes

Center for the Analytics of Learning and Teaching faculty Marcia Moraes, James Folkestad, and Kelly McKenna won the “Distinction in Research” award in the Applied Science Category at the inaugural College of Health and Human Sciences Research Day for their research project, U-Behavior App: Generating Visual-Form Learning Analytics from Quiz Usage Data.

Building positive study behaviors

James Folkestad (left) discusses C-ALT's research with a CHHS Research Day attendee
James Folkestad (left) discusses C-ALT’s research with a CHHS Research Day attendee

The project focused on C-ALT’s U-Behavior method as a teaching and learning tool that assists students in becoming aware of their study behaviors, and encourages them to embrace more productive habits to improve their long-term retention and learning.

The method uses the Canvas quizzing tool to build Retrieval Practice Activities. These activities move away from the quiz concept, which is often used as an assessment tool. Functioning as a learning tool, RPAs get students to practice over the entire semester. U-Behavior reinforces practice behaviors by providing each student with their own personalized visual-form learning analytic, a graph that shows them how they actually practiced based on their Canvas quiz data.

“The visual-form learning analytics are hard evidence about how they actually practiced, over time,” said Folkestad. “We use these not to punish, but to change behavior – to change their habits.”

The research was interwoven throughout different fields to create an interdisciplinary understanding of learning. Folkestad, McKenna, and Moraes worked with a variety of C-ALT researchers to bring theory to practice on this learning analytics project.

“We are very proud of this research and development work,” said Folkestad, “but we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the significant contributions of learning scientists who participated in the project: Mathew Rhodes and Anne Cleary from Cognitive Psychology, and Priya Harindranathan, who is just completing her dissertation, which is focused on behavioral data and pedagogy. This work is very challenging, and it has taken time and a team to advance.”

“This is a multi-disciplinary project that requires a variety of skill sets,” said McKenna. “Collaborating on this research allows each of us to contribute our strengths and to participate in research that none of us could achieve on our own without the expertise of the entire C-ALT team.”

Work that makes a difference

(Left to right) Kelly McKenna, Lise Youngblade, and James Folkestad pose at CHHS Research Day awards ceremony
(Left to right) Kelly McKenna, Lise Youngblade, and James Folkestad pose at CHHS Research Day awards ceremony

CHHS Research Day created the opportunity to share the team’s work with their colleagues on campus, to further the possibility of helping students and instructors with the U-Behavior method. While the project has been shared with Unizin and the Society of Learning Analytics Researchers, the team was able to share their work with the local community on a deeper level.

“It created an opportunity for us to share the work we are doing with our colleagues in

the College, and potentially meet individuals who may be interested in implementing U-

Behavior in their classes,” said McKenna. “In addition, C-ALT has received support for its projects from a variety of resources at Colorado State University, so this was one way to share this work with these entities.”

As U-Behavior continues to grow, the research award lends credibility to the method, and will continue to impact learning behaviors in higher education.

“It felt amazing to be recognized,” said Moraes. “We are so glad that our work received such distinction. We believe that our work can make a difference, and this distinction means that others think the same way as we do.”

Focused on helping students

Kelly McKenna poses in front of the C-ALT team's research poster
Kelly McKenna poses in front of the C-ALT team’s research poster

Folkestad, McKenna, and Moraes are working on implementing the U-Behavior method in large undergraduate classes with subsequent classes to further their research on content retention and recall. As they move forward, they will remain focused on the student and the benefits that the U-Behavior method presents to the development of learning skills.

“We will continue to use the student-centered methodology to develop this technology,” said Folkestad. “Without question, we are thankful to have taken the time early to develop ethical principles that have guided our work. This work will always be focused on helping students understand and advance their skill-set in learning. The minute the technology deviates from this mission will be the time to dismantle it and start over.”

About CHHS Research Day

CHHS Research Day is an annual event that recognizes the research and creative scholarship of students, faculty, and staff. Any undergraduate, graduate, post-doctoral fellow, faculty member, or staff member within the College of Health and Human Sciences is eligible to participate by submitting a proposal on their research or scholarship.

Accepted proposals present their research or scholarship on a scholarly poster and are judged by a variety of CHHS and CSU faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Participants can be considered for different categories such as Clinical Science, Applied Science, Basic Science, Community Engagement, Creative Scholarship, Public Health, and Social Justice.

The Center for the Analytics of Learning and Teaching is a University-level research center housed in the School of Education. The School of Education is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.