With Sapling Learning, Purdue Associate Professor Laurie Parker's organic chemistry students spend more time doing their homework and get better grades.
Like most educators, Associate Professor Laurie Parker of Purdue University is always on the lookout for ways to get her organic chemistry students to do more work outside the classroom — to spend more time reviewing the lessons of each classroom session and, even more important, trying to solve relevant problems on their own. The more her students do outside the classroom, she knows, the better positioned they become to succeed in her class and beyond. “That’s how you really improve learning outcomes,” Parker says. “Doing the back-of-the-book problems is a real key to success when it comes to organic chemistry.”
When she discovered Sapling Learning, Parker was excited by the possibilities it offered. Because Sapling offers the ability to track
student homework efforts, it offers unprecedented insight into student learning progress. And thanks to Sapling’s ease of use and
quality of content — and especially to the fact that problems are not tied to any single textbook — it’s easy for Parker to customize homework for her class. “Sapling is great in terms of homework content, as well as really flexible,” she says. “I like the Sapling problems, and assign them pretty much ‘as is,’ but I can also cut those that don’t map to what we’re doing in class.” To encourage her students to engage with organic chemistry outside of class, Parker made a portion of their grade contingent upon the successful completion of Sapling problems. “They get three tries on each problem, with a five percent penalty for each incorrect response,” she says. “By solving Sapling problems correctly, students can get significant extra credit.
Parker’s students really enjoy using Sapling, favoring it over the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System (ARIS) application.
They especially like the tutorial content, as well as the way Sapling lets them try to solve problems multiple times. It’s not a surprise, then, that they’re getting better grades with Sapling. Parker says, “Using Sapling directly correlates to improved learning outcomes — and the more students use Sapling, the more successful they are.” In her experience, using Sapling typically improves student performance by as much as a full grade. Parker has also benefited from the accessibility and helpfulness of her Tech TA, a real, live person who helps her resolve problems and get the most out of Sapling. “They really know the science behind the homework problems,” she says. “And just as important, they really know the application.” Parker raves about Sapling Learning. Indeed, her experience has been so positive that she plans to use the Sapling authoring engine in an upcoming major course curriculum redesign.