As instructors, we know that student effort is the most important determinant of student success. Unfortunately, we simply do not have the tools to encourage more effort without taking up lots of our time.
In my teaching at the Business School at Stanford in the 1990s, I wanted to assign more homework, but I could not manage the paper flow and grading. I wanted to use experiments to get students involved, but I could not spare time from lectures. To solve these problems, I developed software and teaching materials that dramatically changed the course. Because I could require assignments before every class and run online experiments that made abstract concepts real, my students gained confidence. Everyone came to class better prepared. Our classroom discussions were more productive. Ultimately, they learned more and felt a stronger sense of accomplishment.
To continue these efforts, I started Aplia. Its mission is to change how we teach by requiring from students the effort necessary for them to succeed. In the process, it can raise the productivity of instructors by freeing them of such low-value tasks as marking papers or lecturing on the basics and allowing them to do what they do best—respond to questions, lead discussions, demonstrate, and challenge.
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