15 January, 2016
The Mastering platform is a commonly used online educational interface designed to help college-level students master math and science-related subject areas.
This product series was released by the Pearson Education publishing and technology company in 2003. Similar to the ALEKS assessment and learning system, Mastering gives an effective system for student tutorials, homework, and assessments. The series integrates each subject’s corresponding textbook and tailors to individual learning needs with customized feedback. Thousands of colleges and universities have effectively used Mastering products to enhance the learning of millions of users at reduced costs. In 2009, over six million students registered for Mastering and MyLab online learning programs, resulting in a 40% increase from 2008.
Effectiveness and Awards
There are opposing views on the effectiveness of the Mastering platform in improving student performance. According to some research, MasteringPhysics users make 15% fewer mistakes and solve problems 15% more quickly when compared to non-users. Also, the same research suggests that the test scores of MasteringChemistry users have increased by 12%. However, a study at the University of Sydney concluded that MasteringPhysics did not significantly affect exam scores. The researchers suggested that this lack of effectiveness could have been due to the students not taking full advantage of the program’s resources. On another note, a study involving MIT students from 2003 states there is significant evidence that students who use MasteringPhysics achieve improved problem-solving skills. Effective or not, the 2010 Software & Information Industry Association’s CODiE Awards nominated the product for an award in education technology.
Each version in the Mastering series is accessed by users on the web through its corresponding URL, e.g. http://www.masteringphysics.com. The program’s questions are based on a Socratic dialogue with the students. With this method, Mastering responds to challenges in solving a certain problem with hints or simpler versions of the problem. More focus is placed on the process of finding the solution rather than just obtaining the final answer. Students involve in the adaptive program, each with their own pace and style of learning. The collection of products includes
MasteringA&P (Anatomy & Physiology)
The Mastering interface allows instructors to concentrate more on teaching than grading since assignments are automatically graded. Professors can use the online grade book to track student learning progress and determine topics the class is struggling with the most before administering exams. The website also analyzes student data to create statistics reflecting assessment outcomes. Instructors can make announcements on the webpage and post course materials in the form of documents and lectures.
Students are assigned different one-part and multi-part problems on the website as homework. Each question has a limited number of attempts, after which no credit is received. Some problems contain a “hint” button, which assist users with going through the thought process of solving the problem. When a student enters the incorrect answer to a question, the program usually detects the type of error made and helps the student correct it with automated feedback. Each product version provides users with some or all of the following tools:
Interactive eText- includes online version of the textbook
3D Animations- helps users visualize complex concepts and processes
Tutorial Videos- goes through steps of solving example problems
Math Review- helps students understand essential mathematical basis of topics like chemistry and physics
Self-study Quizzes- allows students to review for exams
MasteringA&P (Anatomy & Physiology)
MasteringA&P features a useful application called Practice Anatomy Lab (PAL) 3.0. This tool allows users to access genuine lab specimens online at any time and use them to study for lab practical (assessments for determining different types of anatomical structures in lab). PAL 3.0 also contains detailed animations to help students visualize processes such as joint movement. The program is divided into five modules:
MasteringAstronomy includes a Microsoft-produced tool called WorldWide Telescope tours. It lets students to cruise through outer space and examine celestial bodies based on data collected by telescopes. WorldWide Telescope tours is linked to the online eText so that students relate the concepts in the book with real-life information.
MasteringGeography & MasteringGeology
MasteringGeography features MapMasterTM, an application that uses interactive maps with geographically-themed layers to help students understand the concepts of geography. Both MasteringGeography and MasteringGeology incorporate the program Google Earth into Pearson’s Encounter Series. Students explore geoscience concepts as they go through hands-on exercises in the incorporated program.
MasteringPhysics gives students access to a hands-on physics simulation program created by the PhET Group at University of Colorado – Boulder. This utility enables users develop a better understanding of concepts by relating the laws of physics to real life.