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Innovative online learning takes flight at Quinsigamond Community College

October, 2017
  • From left: Susan Mellace, Dr. Darshita Shah (MIT) and Jane Joyce.
  • QCC students listen to Dr. Shah explain how Fly-By-Wire works.

Quinsigamond Community College accounting students recently embarked on an online test/pilot program that enables them to test and improve themselves through the use of online assessments.

This technology offers a different way of student learning and teaching, through technology-enabled, competency-based scaffolding. The adaptive, personalized learning tool aids students in reaching high level learning outcomes through the mastering of lower level learning outcomes.  

“When students get a problem wrong, they get a hinting question that will assist them in mastering and understanding the original question,” said Jane Joyce, associate professor of accounting at QCC. “This is a terrific way for students to actually get the help they need whenever they need it.”

Through a collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge) and Arapahoe Community College (Littleton, CO), the newly developed technology application, Fly-By-Wire was developed to improve student learning outcomes. Modeled after aerospace-inspired digital technology for pilots, the Fly-by-Wire technology was created to assist teachers in the same way as a fly-by-wire system in an aircraft aids a human pilot. The program is designed to serve diverse, non-traditional students from at-risk backgrounds and the faculty of college algebra and accounting. While QCC accounting students are currently testing the program application, Arapahoe Community College has already launched the program full-scale to its students.

QCC was instrumental was instrumental in developing the questions used in the accounting module. Since the summer of 2016, Ms. Joyce has worked developing questions and solutions in collaboration with Arapahoe Community College. Both Ms. Joyce and QCC colleague Susan Mellace visited MIT in the summer of 2017 to proof read the finalized questions and solutions before the application was launched.

“This type of technology will enable us to measure quantitative improvement in student learning outcomes and offer teachers the opportunity to assess an entire classes’ ability to master certain learning objectives,” said QCC’s Dean of Business, Engineering and Technology, Kathy Rentsch. “Many of our students have additional work/life commitments that make traditional ways of learning more difficult. This is something we feel can be a real game changer for our students. We’re excited to be a part of this collegiate collaboration.”

This four-year project is being funded by a $2.9 million U.S. Department of Education grant and has been in development since 2015.