CourseSites associated with decline in physical science laboratory completion rate

SC 130 Physical Science saw a term long drop in the completion rate for laboratory reports fall 2013. The cause of this drop is not solely due to technology, although CourseSites was used for the first time in the course. No student failed to turn in all laboratories. In other words, students were functionally able to access and use CourseSites for submitting laboratories.

Spring 2013 the average submission rate was 93% . This fell to 79% fall 2013.


With the exception of laboratory one, turn-in rates for fall 2013 were below spring 2013.

Up through spring 2013 laboratory reports were handed in as hard copies or sent via email and then printed out. The laboratory reports were marked and returned to the students the following week. There is the possibility that the act of returning the laboratory helped remind students that another laboratory was due. Another possibility is that the physicality of a hard copy provided some form of stimulus to handing in laboratory reports.

Many students had difficulty early in the term with understanding how to submit assignments in CourseSites. Spring 2014 there are plans to include an additional session in a computer laboratory early in the term to help students learn to use CourseSites both to submit laboratory reports and access feedback on those reports. The hope is that a stronger focus on technology up front in the term might lead to higher turn-in rates later in the term.

There are strong reasons for continuing to use CourseSites. The use of on line turn-in and feedback greatly reduces the amount of paper used by the course, reducing costs for both the college and the student. CourseSites also retains all laboratory reports throughout the term, facilitating post-hoc assessment. The time required to mark reports and provide informative feedback is greatly reduced. CourseSites permits the use of interactive rubrics that allow point-and-click rubric marking. Commonly made comments and suggestions can be typed once and pasted many times, whereas marking by hand means rewriting comments on every individual paper. Where in prior terms I had not marked many more than 34 laboratory reports in a single weekend. Using CourseSites and Edmodo I was able to, in one instance, mark upwards of 53 laboratory reports and essays (the essays were submissions from an ethnobotany course and were submitted via Edmodo which also uses a Crocodoc plug-in).

Turn-in rates by laboratory spring and fall 2013

Lab spring 2013 n=29 fall 2013 n=27
one 0.86 0.93
three 0.97 0.78
five 0.97 0.85
seven 0.90 0.78
nine 0.79 0.70
eleven 0.93 0.78
thirteen 0.93 0.78
fourteen 0.93 0.74

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