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The Student Ability Rating and Inquiry System (SARIS) is a separate application from the ChemWiki that addresses the need for homework with an extensive question database. When fully implemented, SARIS will generate valuable statistics tracking individual student performance. The SARIS shares similar to other homework applications, but is augmented by links between the SARIS and ChemWiki databases, which direct students toward relevant module content. Moreover, since SARIS is uncoupled from a textbook publisher, it fits the ChemWiki AIM of open access. Once fully operational, the SARIS will be more than a simple database of homework/exam questions, but will be a powerful application to facilitate increased learning of course content.
Performance-related feedback is necessary for students to learn effectively, which requires that opportunities exist for students to perform.Often in the pursuit of class goals, students hit “brick walls” that prohibit their advancing. To achieve a situation where students master difficult problems, they can “level up”, which is a concept originating from role-playing (RPG) and videos games. In RPGs, it is normal to run into a situation where players cannot proceed forward because they are simply not experienced enough to defeat the enemies at hand. The principle of “leveling up” is to gain experience piecewise; the more experience a player gains, the closer he/she is to moving up a level. In games, the safest way to gain experience is to start off with the enemies that are weaker and to keep fighting them over and over.
Applying the “leveling up” approach to homework involves students tackling smaller variants of difficult problems that are manageable. By completing problems, students gain experience points (XP), which then directly couples to grades. Each student starts the term with zero XP that will increase by the successful completion of homework questions without the aid or “crutch” of commercial study guides. If help is required/requested, then the acquired XP is reduced and if the full answer (with detailed explanation) is requested, then no XP are granted. Each question in the SARIS question bank will have a comprehensive set of corresponding metadata that will determine category and difficulty level. As a student gains XP for completing homework problems, a natural student-imposed scaffolding occurs to spur performance.Students will be locked out of questions that were successfully completed to remove abuse of the system.
The Saris is being upgraded to a new system and is almost operational. The SARIS is powered with PracticeZone.org technology, which was developed by Chuck Wight, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Utah. Usually, web sites with dynamic content like this one are best used as learning tools, not assessment or testing tools. For this reason, we have configured the software to allow students to submit proposed solutions to the problems as often as they want, in order to improve their scores. The objective is for students to use the feedback to correct their errors.
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