Interdisciplinary project also receives two National Science Foundation grants
TAMPA, Fla. (June 27, 2016) – Researchers at the University of South Florida are garnering international attention for an online learning tool that some people think may change the way English courses are taught. My Reviewers, an e-learning tool that recently received a National Science Foundation I-Corps grant and an NSF PRIME grant, has received the 2016 Campus Technology Innovators award from Campus Technology magazine.
The award recognizes colleges and universities that have deployed innovative technology solutions to campus challenges. USF’s team that developed the app – which includes an English professor, a business researcher, and a student – is one of just four groups worldwide recognized with the publication’s Teaching and Learning award. Groups from Virginia Commonwealth University, the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Michigan round out the category. They will be recognized Aug. 1-4 in Boston at the 2016 Campus Technology Conference.
My Reviewers is an online suite of teaching, reviewing and writing assessment tools. Using cloud-based storage, users can quickly and easily review student work and provide feedback. As students revise and edit their writing, faculty can link to videos that provide details about a particular topic, or, when addressing common problem areas, provide consistent feedback by dropping and dragging advice from a custom frequent-comment library.
Joe Moxley, a professor in the USF College of Arts & Sciences, came up with the idea, inspired by his desire to better understand what causes some students to struggle in writing composition courses. Moxley aspired to help USF writing students improve their skills while making it easier for instructors to provide feedback or uncover common problem areas. Nearly 15,000 USF students now use My Reviewers each year.
To commercialize the software, he partnered with USF Muma College of Business DBA Program Director Matt Mullarkey and young entrepreneur and English master’s student Natalie Kass, as well as a group of management information systems (MIS) students, to develop the program. Students wrote all of the coding that transformed Moxley’s idea into reality.
“We wouldn’t be anywhere without the MIS students,” Moxley said. “We are really indebted to that group. Professor Manish Agrawal helped us find some of the best student coders out there, and they are the ones who helped us build this robust program,” he added.
Eric Eisenberg, dean of the USF College of Arts & Sciences, said My Reviewers is one of the most comprehensive and innovative learning platforms for writing in the world.
“It has fundamentally changed the way writing is taught and assessed,” Eisenberg said.
This project combined the “left-brain” skills of business researchers with the “right-brain” skills necessary in English composition or writing courses. With My Reviewers, administrators can compare student performance in a specific semester to prior semesters using data from every instructor who teaches a class. They can then look for patterns that may indicate areas where changes in curriculum could help students learn better. But My Reviewers does more than just collect after-the-fact data. It can identify students who aren’t doing well early, particularly those who have recurring problems, which can help instructors in real-time.
Data is powerful but it takes creative thinking like this to extract meaningful information from it, said USF Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem, an expert in business intelligence and data analytics. He lauds the team for finding creative ways to aggregate information related to common writing issues.
“An English professor saw the need, had an idea, reached out to his colleagues in the information systems area to help solve it, and partnered with our business professors to launch it commercially,” Limayem said. Equally important, he added, they involved students in the process.
The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is a Top 25 research university among public institutions nationwide in total research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Serving over 48,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.6 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.
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