In 2015, after I had left as CFO of an airline company in the USA, I started teaching Airline Management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I got introduced to Team-Based Learning teaching methodology and loved teaching my students with this approach. I felt that it got my students much closer to workforce job-readiness than traditional lecture-based learning did. However, there were few pain points, such as administrative hassle with organizing TBL classes, the excessive time required to set up and manually grading IRAT, TRAT, and Applications. Even other educators faced similar pain-points then and continue to face them even now.
One of the main characteristics of the TBL approach is the process of providing immediate feedback to teams during team readiness assurance tests to improve retention and learning outcomes among students. Many educators have traditionally used Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique (IF-AT) scratch-off cards for the team readiness assurance test (TRAT). The scratch-off cards do provide immediate feedback to students, then why should educators think of shifting from paper-based scratch-off cards to digital TRAT? Here’s what I have found:
1. Save setup time: When using IF-AT scratch-off cards for the TRAT, educators generally need to print out copies of the questions for each student. Before printing the copies, educators need to ensure that the scratch-off card answer key is aligned to the right question number. If the scratch-off card has the correct answer for questions 1, 2, 3 as a, b and c, educators need to make sure that the printout has questions with the correct answer for question 1, 2 and 3 as a, b and c as well. This process sometimes requires a reshuffling of the question order. This becomes more difficult if your answers have a natural order such as, what is the correct dosage? (1ml, 3ml, 5ml, etc.). This problem can be easily rectified with digital TRAT, for which, educators don’t need to print anything, and the answer options can be randomized with just 1 click.
2. Save grading time: With IF-AT scratch-off cards, TRAT grades need to be calculated and entered in the grade book manually. Grading is automated with digital TRAT.
3. Better outcomes with real-time data: With paper scratch off cards, educators generally wait until after the TRAT to collect the cards and then flip through 10 to 20 cards (depending on the number of teams) with 10 to 20 questions and assess where the trouble spots are with teams. Digital TRAT also allows for simultaneous reporting, which means that educators can access trouble spots and clarification requests in real-time. There is no time-lag between TRAT and clarification discussion. I heard of one case where a teaching assistant would have to run back to the office and enter all the data and perform the analysis and then rush back to class to give it to the professor. With digital TBL, all the data comes in real-time. As the teams are working, TBL educators have a real-time dashboard to identify trouble spots. Besides, a digital TBL dashboard also shows the order in which teams select the option before arriving at the right answer. The grade dashboard indicates where the weak spots are and potentially why as they are happening. This allows faculty to start preparing how to address them while the teams are still working. For educators, this can be an important benefit so they can be prepared to address the trouble spots.
4. Better outcomes with continuous data-driven improvement: With digital TBL, past data is available in seconds, which provides a quick and easy way to review past performance to make continuous quality improvements in the questions and focus more on students’ weak spots.
5. TBL accessibility for online classes: Online learning is on the rise with 33% of all university students in the United States taking some online classes and 15% taking exclusively online programs. Digital TBL makes TRATs feasible in both synchronous and asynchronous modalities.
6. TBL accessibility for multiple campus locations: Some institutions have students in multiple locations. One common scenario is a main campus in a central urban center with additional locations in more rural locations. I heard of one institution that was using TBL with paper scratch off cards with a city location and a rural location. To access the TRAT results for teams in the rural location, professors would have the paper scratch off cards sent to them by mail after each TRAT.
7. Statistically just as much fun: Some educators are concerned that paper scratch off cards are more fun the digital TBL and worry that class will be less fun digitally. Recently, researchers at Deakin University studied the adoption of digital TBL as compared to paper-based scratch cards. When examining the STUDENT perception of the fun of digital versus paper, they found there was no statistically significant difference for digital versus paper. However, FACULTY perceived that paper was more fun for students. I interpret that as faculty believing the scratch-off card is this wonderful fun thing. However, for students (many of which are digital natives) a paper TRAT and a digital TRAT are similar. This reminds me of my perceptions of student note-taking. For my generation, it was pretty much all pen and paper, but today’s students take or type notes digitally.
Team-Based Learning is an effective teaching methodology, which is helping students enhance skills such as collaborations, teamwork, providing constructive feedback, and helping them retain better. We, as educators, should think of ways to scale TBL, without compromising on its benefits for students. Digital TBL can help us save time, automate the grading process and drive data-driven insights. Let's make learning more sustainable by using paperless solution to IF-AT scratch-off cards - Digital TRAT.