Most sections of Psychology 101 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee fit the popular image of a college class: Hundreds of students pack into a lecture hall twice a week and attend regular discussion sections. But as the university faces pressure to improve success rates for underprepared college students, one professor’s markedly different approach to the introductory psychology course is turning heads, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Professor Diane Reddy has replaced the traditional lecture format with an online version of Psych 101. Students learn at their own pace but also have to obtain mastery, demonstrated by passing a quiz on each unit, before they can move on to the next. Along the way, students get help from teaching assistants who monitor their online activity, identifying weak spots and providing advice–even if the students don’t seek it. Initial evidence says this approach is working: In a study of 5,000 students over two years, U-Pace students performed 12 percent better on the same cumulative test than students who took traditional Psych 101 with the same textbook and course content, even though U-Pace students had lower average grades than those in the conventional course. The online model, the study found, was particularly successful for disadvantaged or underprepared students. But students in general do better in the class, too, earning a higher percentage of As and Bs than students earn in traditional Psych 101. Reddy has received a grant from the UW System to survey students to figure out why U-Pace is so successful and to track whether taking U-Pace increases their chances of continuing in college from one year to the next…

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