Skip navigation
All Places > Sapling Learning > Blog > 2016 > May
2016

Sapling Learning

May 2016 Previous month Next month
Jonathan Bratt

Requesting New Content

Posted by Jonathan Bratt May 31, 2016

The Sapling Learning content library contains a broad selection of high-quality questions, but there will likely be times that you can’t quite find the problem you’re looking for. When this happens, one of your options is to submit a request to our content team.

 

When we receive a request for a new problem, we first decide whether it would be a valuable addition to our library. If we determine that the problem would be a good addition, one of our subject matter experts writes it out in detail. The problem is written in full Sapling Learning style, including a complete solution and specific feedback. Next, the problem goes through at least two stages of internal review to ensure accuracy and quality. After passing review, the problem is added to our library.

 

From start to finish, this process typically takes about one week per problem, depending on the complexity of the problem. Questions involving graphics will generally take longer.

 

In 2015, about 80 of the new questions that we added to the physics and astronomy libraries were written in response to requests from instructors. Some of our best content has originated this way, so please keep the requests coming!

Jonathan Bratt

Interactive Graphing

Posted by Jonathan Bratt May 28, 2016

One of the features that makes Sapling Learning so effective is the high level of interactivity that many of our questions provide. This month, we highlight one of our most versatile interactive question modules—the Line Mover module.

 

The Line Mover module allows students to interact with a variety of graphs, changing the positioning of points or line segments on the graph by clicking and dragging. For example, students could be asked to construct a plot of an object’s motion by dragging points into place.

 

One question that illustrates this is item 105966 [see screenshot below], which was recently created in response to an instructor’s request. Given information about a rocket’s acceleration, students must construct a plot of the rocket’s position as a function of time by placing the given points.

 

In terms of the number of possible responses, this question is nearly as open-ended as a paper-based graphing question. Unlike a paper graph, however, Sapling Learning provides students with immediate feedback when they make mistakes. The question guides students toward the correct answer, identifying specific regions of the plot that are incorrect.

 

Other kinematics questions that use the Line Mover module include items 70072, 70788, 67476, and 106613. Take a look and let us know what you think!

 

Physics-12.1-Newsletter (1).png

If you have not yet seen our first Economic News Analysis assignment, please ask your Tech TA to add it to your course. We're launching a new series of assignments based on Washington Post articles—students can follow a link to the article, then answer questions pertaining to it. Our questions will use the article as a starting point and have your students apply what they learn from the article to the economic framework developed in the text and in your classroom.

Our first article, which focuses on falling corn prices, encourages students to consider the ramifications on farmers and how they are likely to respond. Our goal is to provide thought-provoking questions on topics that are of current interest, yet timeless enough to not be outdated by the end of the semester. We will be rolling out two articles for macroeconomics and two for microeconomics over the course of the semester. Be sure to keep an eye on this newsletter to find out when the next articles will be available for use in your courses.

For more information, please watch our 30-minute webinar on Economic News Analysis.

Chemistry is more than just calculations, so Sapling Learning strives to provide students with a complete understanding of the subject. One way of achieving this is with clear questions that illustrate the chemical concepts that are expected to be learned in order to better understand the more complex chemical questions. Conceptual questions range from balancing an equation to ranking compounds based on a specific characteristic, and these types of questions are applicable to all the chemistry disciplines we support.

 

In the spotlight question, which has recently been created for general chemistry, the question is asking about the difference between the change in enthalpy (ΔH) and the change in entropy (ΔS). The molecules are in motion in the live question, with the top image showing that the speeds of the atoms are much higher in the left container than in the right. The lower image shows a liquid becoming a solid. The student can compare the final condition on the right to the starting condition on the left and decide if enthalpy and entropy have increased, decreased, or stayed the same. This conceptual question can quickly assess understanding of enthalpy and entropy and correct misconceptions, which is essential in complete mastery of chemistry.

 

Copy of Conceptual Chemistry Question 109208.PNG

Originally posted by Christina Barry.

 

At the end of the term, your Sapling Learning grades need to be incorporated into your final course grades. Your Sapling Learning site breaks grades into grade categories—the total grade is aggregated from each category, usually called Graded, Ungraded, and Extra Credit. The graded category is usually calculated as a sum of grades or a simple weighted mean. Your gradebook may have other grade categories such as Quizzes, Exams, or Labs. Please keep in mind that our system does not allow grades to exceed 100%.

 

Once you are satisfied with how the grades are calculated, you can export them into one of several file-types, such as an excel file or csv, for easy integration with your institution’s gradebook.

 

grader report.jpg

 

We also offer the option of including a requirement for students to enter student IDs to help match them with their grades. Please contact your Tech TA if you need additional assistance.

Before a new question goes “live” in the Sapling Learning physics library, it must first pass a rigorous internal review process. However, the question’s journey of improvement doesn’t end there. After a question begins to be read and answered by students, issues with it may become apparent. Sometimes, an instructor will suggest a correction or improvement to an existing question. When this happens, we evaluate and implement the changes as soon as we can. For minor edits, these fixes are often applied the same day.

 

Our internal content experts also work to identify and fix potential issues with existing questions. Each year, we compile comprehensive statistics on the performance of every question in our content library. Questions are ranked by how often they are assigned by instructors, how frequently students gave up or answered incorrectly, and many other criteria. Based on this data, certain questions are selected for revision or replacement.

 

We take the quality of our content very seriously, and it is our goal to be continually improving our existing questions, along with writing new ones. Your feedback is an important part of this process, so please don’t hesitate to contact us with your comments or suggestions.

The 2014–2015 school year was a busy one for the Economics team—we authored over 900 questions and added three titles: Mateer/Coppock, Parkin, and Bade/Parkin. Our biggest change was to the question bank itself, as we have now made every economics question accessible to every professor in the Sapling Economics taxonomy.

Simply click on the title in the orange question bank of the Activity Editor to expand the taxonomy, drilling down to the desired topic. Once a particular section is highlighted, be it a single topic or the entire bank, clicking on the ID column header sorts the questions by their ID numbers. In general, the larger the ID number, the newer the question. This is an excellent way to find the newest questions available for any topic.

Because economists tend to use a wide variety of vocabulary and approaches to the discipline, our questions present several different ways to discuss the same ideas. Check out the screen shot of Ch. 28, Externalities. Each line on the left leads to questions using those exact terms. Economics is the science of choice, so what better way to show that than to offer our professors plenty of choices?

New Economics Content 2015 [hyperlink that to this: http://www.saplinglearning.com/ibiscms/course/view.php?id=46443 ] is a Sapling Learning demonstration course comprised of over 500 new and newly improved questions—be sure to take special notice of the first section, Economic News Analysis. You’ll be delighted to learn that our first six assignments based on Washington Post articles are ready for your students. As the example here shows, each assignment contains a link to the article along with a question that requires your students to actually read the article to answer.

We have been adding our instructors to this course as students in order to allow you to preview the new material—the link should take you straight to the course. You might be asked if you want to enroll yourself in the course. This is normal, and you should reply “Yes” if prompted.

Be sure to let your Tech TA know if you want to add the news assignments or any particular questions to your course, or if you have trouble with the link. New users always get the most up-to-date courses, but instructors who copy a course from one semester to the next sometimes miss out on the newest and the best. Don’t hesitate to drop us an email if you see something that strikes your fancy!

Kristyn Brown

Economic News Analysis

Posted by Kristyn Brown May 16, 2016

If you have not yet seen our first Economic News Analysis assignment, please ask your Tech TA to add it to your course. We're launching a new series of assignments based on Washington Post articles—students can follow a link to the article, then answer questions pertaining to it. Our questions will use the article as a starting point and have your students apply what they learn from the article to the economic framework developed in the text and in your classroom.

Our first article, which focuses on falling corn prices, encourages students to consider the ramifications on farmers and how they are likely to respond. Our goal is to provide thought-provoking questions on topics that are of current interest, yet timeless enough to not be outdated by the end of the semester. We will be rolling out two articles for macroeconomics and two for microeconomics over the course of the semester. Be sure to keep an eye on this newsletter to find out when the next articles will be available for use in your courses.

For more information, please watch our 30-minute webinar on Economic News Analysis.

Sapling Learning Biology currently offers eight interactive laboratories on different topics in biology so you can help your students better navigate difficult concepts. You can find these interactives linked at the top of your course page, or ask your Tech TA for more information about the interactives available and how to include them in your course.


If you’d like to explore the use of interactives in your course even further, some great free resources can be found online at Learn.Genetics by the University of Utah. Ranging from Inheritance to Cell Biology to Ecology and more, these interactives, videos, and articles provide a fun way for students to tackle new information.

Want to teach your students about variation and gene interactions? The Pigeonetics lab is a comprehensive and fun pigeon breeding experiment focused on different types of inheritance. Want to explore the relationship between epigenetics and behavior? The Lick Your Rats interactive explores how maternal grooming habits induce epigenetic changes.

Learn Genetics is a fun resource you can use alongside your Sapling Homework to help engage your students and pique their curiosity about all of the wonders of biology.

Amber Jonker

Template Assignments

Posted by Amber Jonker May 14, 2016

Approximately 35 weeks have passed since the start of the fall semester, and in that time hundreds of new or updated questions have been added to the introductory biology, genetics, and anatomy and physiology libraries. Past newsletter updates have highlighted specific examples of new content or aspects of our content creation process.

Creating new questions is one of the core functions of the biology content team, but there are many others. For example, the content team is also responsible for matching questions from our library to specific textbooks. For each chapter of each textbook that we support, an experienced subject matter expert picks out appropriate questions from our content library. These questions are compiled into “template assignments,” which provide a convenient starting point for instructors looking to create assignments for their courses.

As our library grows, keeping track of our content becomes more challenging, but also more important. For this reason, the biology content team is engaged in a significant and ongoing effort to update the template assignments for all of our supported textbooks. After all, there’s no point in having the best content if nobody can find it!

Kristyn Brown

Economics Updates

Posted by Kristyn Brown May 13, 2016

The 2014–2015 school year was a busy one for the Economics team—we authored over 900 questions and added three titles: Mateer/Coppock, Parkin, and Bade/Parkin. Our biggest change was to the question bank itself, as we have now made every economics question accessible to every professor in the Sapling Economics taxonomy.

Simply click on the title in the orange question bank of the Activity Editor to expand the taxonomy, drilling down to the desired topic. Once a particular section is highlighted, be it a single topic or the entire bank, clicking on the ID column header sorts the questions by their ID numbers. In general, the larger the ID number, the newer the question. This is an excellent way to find the newest questions available for any topic.

Because economists tend to use a wide variety of vocabulary and approaches to the discipline, our questions present several different ways to discuss the same ideas. Check out the screen shot of Ch. 28, Externalities. Each line on the left leads to questions using those exact terms. Economics is the science of choice, so what better way to show that than to offer our professors plenty of choices?

Every question written for the Sapling Learning Introductory Biology, Genetics, or Anatomy and Physiology Libraries goes through an extensive process to ensure the highest possible quality and accuracy. All of the people who contribute to content development—authors, content reviewers, and final reviewers—are experienced educators with either a Masters or PhD in the biological sciences. At minimum, each question receives 4 hours of attention from one of your peers.

Our authors spend three to five hours in the initial authoring process, which includes researching how the topic is covered by most textbooks and writing the question, answer choices, hint, and solution. For each question, the author must also predict the most common errors a student might make and provide targeted feedback for each error. Next, a content reviewer spends at least 1 hour reviewing the question for its pedagogy and factual accuracy. A copy editor then looks over the question to ensure correct spelling and grammar. Finally, our content lead oversees the entirety of the subject and checks the question one last time.

In the era of the digital native students, educators are looking for new ways to engage students in the classroom. Digital natives think and learn differently than the students of yore—they tend to do well with short flashes of information accompanied by video and callouts.

CrashCourse is a great and completely FREE YouTube series hosted by youth icons, such as novelist John Green, that are designed for digital native learners. Series subjects range from Biology to Anatomy and Physiology to Economics to Chemistry and beyond!

Say you’d like to teach about evolutionary trees. Start with the CrashCourse Taxonomy video outside of class to give your students a primer. Follow up in class by allowing students to engage with the material using the Sapling Learning Evolutionary Trees Interactive while you answer questions and address misconceptions. Finally, check your students’ understanding using Sapling Learning homework questions that incorporate the interactive and solidify their learning.