Knowledge decay and content retention of students in first-semester general chemistry
Topics typical of general chemistry I content that need to be mastered have not changed in over 15 years, but the tools available to assist students in learning general chemistry have. Striving to enhance motivation and give students the practice needed for learning first-semester general chemistry were the reasons behind this case study on the advantages and drawbacks to using electronic homework (e-homework). The effectiveness of online homework is important and needs to be evaluated. The questions that therefore arise are: Are commercially available Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools going to motivate and encourage students to complete the assignments required, and if so, will their use improve the students’ success rate in general chemistry? This case study (n = 1,947) covered a 14-semester span and the use of seven different commercial systems. Of the 1,090 students who voted, 70.7% felt as though the e-homework had been valuable enough to them that it should be continued. Contributions from this study highlight how well do students perform in the class and how well they perform when they advanced to the next general chemistry class. The impacts of e-homework on prevention of knowledge decay and content retention are provided. One of the advantages to using e-homework is that students who master their e-assignments (≥ 90% correct) do better than those who do not. Noted that within these classes is that students who mastered the assignments exhibit less knowledge decay than their peers leading to the conclusion that e-homework is a valuable asset to learning chemistry. The results also indicate that students’ content retention of those who experience e-homework is improved over students who did not use the e-homework available by an average of 15% as scored on an ACS standardized exam given to students the following semester.