Challenge: Students arrived to class with weak chemistry skills
Professor Benjamin Tovrog has taught for 21 years at Perimeter College, a two-year college that’s part of Georgia State University. He long noticed that students were arriving to his Principles of Chemistry I course with diverse backgrounds. Some are first-generation college students. Others balance school with part- or full-time jobs. The common thread? Many of his students lack the basic foundations for academic success.
Tovrog took it upon himself to address learning gaps among his three dozen students per semester. Unfortunately, the homework platform he was originally using wasn’t designed with the same philosophy. “The program had a feature where if you answered incorrectly, you couldn’t move on,” he says. In turn, this led to students feeling discouraged and unsupported throughout their learning process. The grim reality of national chemistry exam scores also ignited a fire in Tovrog. To put things in perspective, the American Chemical Society (ACS) charts an average exam score of 50 percent.
At the time, many students exited his course with Cs and Ds, a trend that Tovrog’s colleagues also noted. He knew there had to be a more effective way of setting the table for exam preparation and confidence. It’s why Tovrog ultimately flipped his classroom using Aktiv Chemistry and saw a remarkable improvement in grades and student satisfaction.
Laying the foundation for student success with Aktiv Chemistry
The sound of a three-hour weekly lecture might be daunting to most. But Tovrog’s students see great value in attending class and getting a chance to demonstrate their knowledge. In Spring 2023, Tovrog ran a flipped course with the help of Aktiv’s intuitive platform for the first time. Here’s how he’s re-architected his class structure to better meet student needs.
- Before class | Lectures and assignments: Students watch Tovrog’s pre-recorded lecture videos accessible via their learning management system. Weekly assignments administered in Aktiv help students identify their weak points.
- During class | Discussions and quizzes: Students share the specific problems they struggled with on the homework assignments. Using Aktiv, Tovrog gives students another chance to quiz themselves. “We work on problems together and then students complete a test on their own. If students say they’re having trouble with question 25, we’ll review that in particular,” he says.
- During class | Preview future content: To boost student preparedness, Tovrog regularly previews the upcoming lesson using Aktiv question sets. “I take a sample of the next two modules and can see how engaged students are as I work on the problems. Aktiv was really the centerpiece of our discussion and the students love it,” Tovrog shares.
- After class | Homework assessments: Tovrog’s course is split into four units, with four modules per unit, each containing a homework assessment. Once the homework due date passes, students can continue to test their understanding in Aktiv. “The practice modules are left open the entire semester. My goal is to get students used to the pacing and rhythm of these problems in the lead up to the exam,” he says.
Students complete a final cumulative exam at the end of the semester. Frequently using Aktiv has proven to be a win-win for Tovrog and his students. Aktiv’s question bank of more than 20,000 algorithmic problems provided the rigor and quality needed to help students prepare for their high-stakes test. “The questions in Aktiv largely mirror the type of questions found within the ACS study guide. It’s quite motivating and encouraging for students,” Tovrog says.
Surpassing national exam averages and charting improved final grades
Tovrog’s multi-step approach to student success has paid off in his eyes. He may be greeted by an underprepared student body at the start of the semester. But by the end, he’s teaching a cohort of confident chemistry advocates who are able to retain and digest the material he’s shared throughout.
Not only are students scoring higher on their exams compared to their chapter tests. Tovrog notes that many students within his Aktiv cohort have gained national recognition for their exam performance. “Twenty-four percent of my class scored in the top 10 percent nationally,” he proudly says.
When students exit his course, they no longer grimace at their final grade. Tovrog couldn’t be more pleased with the letter grades he grants at the end of the term. And his students couldn’t be, either. “Akitv enabled more students to achieve B grades. Before Aktiv, only 10 percent of my students earned Bs and another 10 percent earned Ds. Now, 24 percent are receiving Bs (an 82 percent increase) and 0 percent are earning Ds. Aktiv really helped students excel to a greater degree than previous classes,” he shares.