Nicole Bouvier-Brown, PhD, Chemistry & Biochemistry
Vandana Thadani, PhD, Psychology
Publishers of college textbooks are increasingly bundling what appear to be sophisticated technology-based study tools with their texts. These tools seem promising because they imbed features—such as aids for assisting students to think metacognitively—that existing research suggests can improve student learning. But are such textbook-bundled tools indeed as effective as the well-developed, well-implemented interventions in research studies? Given that that these tools pose financial and opportunity costs for students and instructors, empirical evidence is needed about whether and under what conditions they are effective. LearnSmart™ is one such tool that McGraw Hill bundles with its General Chemistry textbook. The tool imbeds metacognitive aids to help students monitor understanding and steer learning. We conducted a study that examined efficacy of LearnSmart for improving science learning. We compared students who used LearnSmart for their first-semester undergraduate General Chemistry course to those who did not; in addition, we compared these two groups to students who used LearnSmart but received scaffolded support to use the tool’s metacognitive features through materials we developed. Findings and their implications for use of these tools in classes are discussed.
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