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Adding app to course helps students Pattern their study habits


Teaching in a lecture hall to 400 students, Alan Friedman always wondered how much time they spent studying for his class, and if that effort resulted in better learning and grades.

But simply polling students in his introductory biology course about how much they studied gave only the most general answers. Then he began using Pattern, an app developed by ITaP that lets students track their study habits.

"I knew what I was putting into the course," Friedman says, noting that learning is a shared activity, "but I didn't know what students were doing for their part."

Pattern, one of a several teaching and learning apps available through Studio by Purdue, allows students to self-track their academic and extracurricular pursuits and rate how productive they are. The app also lets them compare their behaviors to other students to see which activities may yield the best results.

ITaP and the Office of Institutional Research, Assessment and Effectiveness (OIRAE) are inviting other faculty members to either lead or participate in studies using Pattern or other Studio tools, or to simply try out the apps in their courses.

For Friedman, Pattern revealed that his students spent 130 minutes on average studying and completing assignments outside of class over a study of approximately two weeks, concluding with a midterm exam. He also found that, in general, those who studied more tended to do better.

"When I saw how much time students were putting into the course, I was pleased," Friedman says. "I thought that 65 minutes a week was considerable effort, but not overwhelming. If they had spent only 20 minutes that would have been disappointing, and if they'd spent 6 hours, I would have worried that we weren't making the course accessible enough."

Although results correlating increased effort with higher test scores were expected, Friedman says Pattern showed him the expected scenario wasn't always the case. Data indicated that some students who studied less still did well on the exam, while others spent more time studying, but didn't achieve the same results. At the same time, those who did poorly on the exam typically spent much less time studying.

"I think it shows that there are some students who have had much of the material before, whether in another university class or in high school, and they probably didn't need as much time," Friedman says. "But you could see among the rest of the students, those who put in the time were able to see the results."

Because Pattern can be downloaded as a mobile app or accessed via a Web browser, students were able to track their habits from virtually anywhere. To encourage students to log their time in Pattern, Friedman offered extra credit, resulting in nearly all of his students participating.

"Students always go for bonus points," Friedman says.

Friedman plans to continue using Pattern in his classes, as it gives him both individual and group data about how students are studying and learning, information that he can use when he teaches.

One change he's also made is using Hotseat, a backchannel discussion and polling platform, also available through Purdue Studio, to quiz students in class. He likes the platform because it allows for short written answers. That lets him move away from the multiple-choice assessments traditionally dictated by the available course resources.

"With the help of an excellent staff, we've made a number of improvements over the 10 years I've been teaching this course, always moving towards a more active learning environment," Friedman says. "With multiple-choice, you don't quite know if a student knows the answer or if they are good at guessing, or just good at taking multiple-choice tests."

Kevin O'Shea, an educational technologist who worked with Friedman to implement Pattern and Hotseat in his course, says individuals who have other ideas about how technology might be leveraged to improve teaching and learning are encouraged to reach out to his team at

Friedman says both Hotseat and Pattern help him gauge how students are learning and he sees the apps as part of a trend towards technology educating everyone about themselves.

"There's a lot of technology coming out lately to give people individualized data and insight about their lives," he notes. "I think students also want to learn about themselves and how they can become more effective."

For more news about other Studio at Purdue tools, click here.

Writer: David Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), 765-496-7998,

Source: Alan M. Friedman, associate professor of biological sciences, 765-494-5911,

Kevin O'Shea, ITaP educational technologist, 765-496-1441,

Last updated: May 14, 2015

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