Class participation incentive using e-tokens

For the past two years I was the lab assistant for the “Information Systems Design and Implementation — Programming in Java” course, taught by my PhD supervisor Prof. Diomidis Spinellis at the Athens University of Economics and Business. To make the lesson more interesting and give an extra motivation to the students, me, Vassilios Karakoidas and Diomidis decided to distribute e-tokens to the students that actively participated. In return, the students were offered the possibility to better their grades by the end of the semester. In this post I will describe how we did this and I will provide some initial results based on the students feedback.

First, we automatically created a large number of tokens by using a universally unique identifier (UUID) algorithm. Every e-token consisted of 32 digits (numbers and letters) and it was printed in a small paper. Before every session, we took with us at least fifty tokens. In order to receive a token during the lesson, a student could either answer a question or ask one of his own. We urged them to do this regardless of the correctness of the answer or the importance of the question. In a similar way, a student could receive a token if he or she answered another student’s question. In this way we prompted students to start a debate on an issue, thus making the course more vivid and interesting. According to his or her participation, a student could get more than one token per lecture.

After the lesson, students could visit a specific web page and submit their token number together with their registration number. Upon this action, the database was updated on the server side. This database contained information about the students and how many tokens each had submitted. By the end of the semester the student with the most tokens received a bonus grade equal to one (in a scale from 0 to 10 where 5 is a pass). As for the remaining students, they would be granted with a bonus grade, proportional to their number of tokens. In particular, if n was the number of the most tokens received by a student, a student with m tokens (where m < n) would receive a grade g where: g = m/n.

After the exams, we prompted the students to answer a questionnaire concerning the e-tokens. In particular, for statements like the following: “I participated in the course because I considered the e-token activity really interesting” and “I participated in the course because the e-token activity urged me to”, students could pick a graded response: 1) I completely disagree, 2) I disagree, 3) cannot say, 4) I agree, 5) I absolutely agree. There were also some generic statements like the following: “I would recommend the course to other students”. Together with the answers, we also asked for the students’ grade.

In total, 204 students filled out the questionnaire. The results gathered gave us the opportunity to study (with the help of Panagiotis Zaharias) the effectiveness and acceptance of new methods and techniques that can help to improve the educational process. Our initial results indicate that these e-tokens seem to attract students to participate, making the lesson more interesting and intriguing to them. In addition, we answered the following questions:

– Are there any differences between those who took the token and those who did not regarding the learning effectiveness (measured by the final mark)?

Yes, students who took tokens received higher marks thus showing significant higher learning effectiveness. Learning effectiveness: (t=-4.505, p<.001, M(token) = 91.37±16.58 M(no_token) = 75.0 ±28.44).

– Are there any differences between those who took the token and those who did not regarding students’ satisfaction?

Yes, students who took tokens reported greater levels of satisfaction. Satisfaction: (t=-2.463, p=.015, M(token) = 4.17±0.698 M(no_token) = 3.91 ±0.726).

Our data is available upon request. Any suggestions to improve the process are welcome! You can also share similar experiences if you have.