ECoach digital tool provides academic resources in time for midterms

Sunday, October 30, 2016 - 8:17pm

The University of Michigan announced earlier this month that ECoach, a personalized education platform that allows students to collaborate on course material and practice course objectives to improve overall performance, has been expanded to serve all freshmen at the University.

The project is designed to facilitate better communication and networking among peers for large, lecture-style introductory courses, and has mostly been implemented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes.

The announcement of ECoach’s expansion came as students in classes that use the platform were preparing for midterms with the digital tool with several noting that specific features enhanced their studying. LSA sophomore Jordan Schenker said ECoach was especially useful for exam preparation in her Statistics 250 class.

“Because of the features like practice quizzes and the ability to easily chat with other classmates, I feel like I was better prepared for my stats exam,” Schenker said.

Schenker also noted that ECoach has helped her to keep on track with the professor’s educational goals. This, Schenker said, alleviated much of the usual pre-exam worries.

Echoing Schenker's sentiments, LSA freshman Sudharshna Radhakrishnan said she benefited from using ECoach in her Electrical Engineering and Computer Science 183 class because it provided abundant resources to prepare for midterms.

“ECoach has always given me messages regarding tips on lecture material,” Radhakrishnan said. “But as exams got closer, I received messages on how to study for exams and what course topics to focus on. This helped me narrow down my strengths and weaknesses. ECoach gave me a set of websites to check out to test my knowledge on the material before the exam. Overall, it paved the path to getting the grade I wanted on my first exam.”

ECoach’s user interface allows students to see messages from their professors and from classmates regarding course materials, a grade predictor and practice assignments. In addition to offering “personalized assistance in large classes,” the tool also provides students with regular updates about their progress, allowing them to identify strengths and weaknesses and stay on track with outlined goals.

“The combination of personalized messages and normative data visualizations provide students with consistent insights into their progress, leading to higher motivation, engagement and, ultimately, behavior change as students expand their learning experience,” the website reads.

Statistics Prof. Brenda Gunderson said in a press release that ECoach offers users a personalized approach to class success depending on their known strengths and weaknesses.

“We have students answer a few surveys at the beginning of the course so we can get to know who they are and what their goals are,” Gunderson said.  “And when students log in, they are met with a to-do list that instructs them on what to do if they want to be successful in the class.”

According to a University press release, ECoach, which is run through the Office of Academic Innovation, has been used for the past four years by the program designer, Physics, Astronomy and Education Prof. Tim McKay. He said more than 15,000 students have used the tool to date.

“The ECoach team launched the first coaches in introductory physics classes in 2012.” the press release states. “Since then, they have worked with students, faculty and staff from many departments to create coaches for other large introductory courses.”

The program has also gained national attention for its potential to help students succeed. ECoach recently received a $1.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study how educational personalization can improve equity in large lecture-style STEM classes.