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Isidore is the Stick; You can be the Carrot

By Julianne Morgan

Ever year, the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) surveys undergrad students across the United States about different technology trends and how they relate to student learning. The whole report is fascinating - especially given that the data was collected from pre-COVID through June, so I highly recommend checking  out the full report

This blog, however, focuses on just one part of the report: "More Carrots, Please." According to the report, students overwhelmingly find nudges and alerts from their instructors about low scores on quizzes, missing work, missed classes, etc., to be useful:

Graph from Educause report indicating that 92% of respondents find alerts to be useful

It's hard to tell from this graph, but that's 92% of respondents who said these alerts are useful. We know from our students that they are absolutely checking the Gradebook in their Isidore sites, so a regularly updated *Gradebook in and of itself can serve as the alert for students that they aren't performing well or they are missing work. 

As we learned from the survey of students last Spring, students reported that regularly updating their grades in Isidore was the most important thing instructors could do to help them succeed.

Graph from survey showing that 32% of students rated grading as most important

So, a missing or a bad grade in Isidore is the "stick" - students see the missing grade and then take action. According to the ECAR report, about half of the students who receive academic nudges/alerts take action by seeking help from their instructors, improving their time-management skills, or meeting with their advisors. This is exactly what we want, right?

Well, yes and no. It's obviously excellent that students are responding to alerts or nudges that let them know they need to make improvements, but is there a need for a "carrot," too? What positive reinforcement are students receiving? If it's true that a stick can nudge improvements in academic success, can't a carrot, a kudos, do the same? Could it even do it better? 

I'm sure these questions have been answered many times over, but especially as we continue to work through this pandemic, I would advocate for instructors to take a few minutes every week and reflect on any students who have really stood out in a positive way recently. Shoot them a quick email and let them know they did something well. That email might just be the extra boost they need to get through their next project or write that next paragraph. And, it'll feel good for you, too. It feels good to focus on something positive, and I think we all need a little of that right now. 

I'm now going to go follow my own advice and send a few instructors a little notes of encouragement. But for anyone reading, keep up the GREAT work. I am behind you all the way!!




*(Psst -- did you know that eLearning has a Gradebook review service? We'll evaluate your Gradebook to ensure it's set up correctly according to your syllabus, as well as provide any suggestions for improvement. Just fill out this form to have eLearning review your Gradebook!)