Students Dig Deeper with Critical Reader

By Vanessa Shirley
Engage Staff

Audience interacting with presenters Les Howles and Lindsey Schmidt

Results of a preliminary study indicate UW students prefer to digest assigned readings in an interactive, digital format; one rollover definition and embedded instructor commentary at a time. (download the study results)

At July's Engage Simulations and Games luncheon, Senior Instructional Designer Les Howles and Evaluation and Assessment Specialist Lindsey Schmidt presented the results of a pilot study involving textual analysis, student learning and a new, authoring tool for faculty called Critical Reader.

Critical Reader, an Engage Innovation Award project, helps instructors make text interactive by embedding it with features that appear to increase learning. Instructors can highlight specific passages, create hyperlinks, add rollover word definitions, embed videos and add personal commentary to these e-texts. They can then test student comprehension with knowledge checks and corrective feedback. Soon, they will be able to track if students complete reading materials before going to class.

Les Howles, Lindsey Schmidt and Chris Lupton getting ready to present

Schmidt administered reading comprehension quizzes and preference surveys to students in four French classes last fall and spring who used both Critical Reader and paper readings. On average, students scored significantly higher on the quizzes following the Critical Reader readings than on the quizzes following the paper readings. Most students agreed that the Critical Reader motivated them to better learn the material and helped them read difficult text more critically than traditional paper readings. Students also noted the usefulness of rollover definitions and audio explanations by the instructor in helping them understand complex texts.

Critical Reader, which is part of the new, Case ScenarioBuilder authoring tool, is still in beta form. It will be made available to the entire campus community this fall.