From text to multimedia: Evaluating a scalable enhancement model for problem-based learning

Awardees: Maria Flanagan, Carolyn Wood, Dan Levy, Christopher Robichaud, Mae Klinger, and Laura Winig (HKS)

Summary: Awardees will conduct a comparison study to identify the impact of multimedia enhancements of case materials on student preparation and engagement.

Case method teaching is problem‐based learning, situated in the real world, with real implications. The method is strongly supported by learning sciences research about the positive learning effects of student engagement and content relevance. SLATE (Strengthening Learning and Teaching Excellence) at the Harvard Kenney School of Government has extensive experience with problem-based learning in terms of production and pedagogy.

Maria Flanagan, Carolyn Wood, Dan Levy, Christopher Robichaud, Mae Klinger, and Laura Winig conducted a comparison study addressing the question: Would students prepare better and learn more in a case discussion with a multimedia‐enhanced case compared to a text‐only case? They collaborated with a faculty member who taught the same case in two formats: text-based and digitally enhanced. Digital enhancements to the latter included layout, still images, a timeline, audio-narration, and an embedded poll (without changing or adding to the content of the case). The experiment was conducted on one date in two sections of the same course, and students were randomly assigned to sections.

Using the LIDO (Low Inference Discussion Observation) instrument along with in-class surveys and pre-class case reflections, the team inferred that different curricular formats did not affect student preparedness. There was little difference in engagement, preparation, and content knowledge. They found, in fact, that students’ self-reported learning indicated that class discussion – specifically more time in class and more open-ended questioning – had the biggest influence on student learning. They cited additional research required

One of the biggest challenges to the study was the unforeseen effects of inclement weather on class time and organization in the winter of 2015, which postponed the original experiment date and some confusion around reschedule class time and case assignments. Other lessons learned that they may incorporate into future investigations include selecting a case that has pre-existing video assets to accompany it, and administering surveys to students in-class rather than pre-class for hire completion rates, and/or providing incentives.

The team plans to leverage the assessment methodologies developed for this light intervention in future iterations, including the comparison of a video-rich multimedia case to a traditional text-based case in order to explore whether the video enhancements have a measurable impact on student preparation, engagement, and learning.