Friday, September 20, 2013

The Benefits of Sapling Learning Technologies in Science Class

By Sean Scarpiello

Earlier this year, when I was buying my books for college, I had noticed that on my required textbook list I would need to also purchase a “Sapling Pass” for my Biochemistry class. Unaware what this “Sapling Pass” was, I saw that it was required for the course, so I went ahead and paid $30 for it. During the first few days of Biochemistry, my professor brought up that this “Sapling Pass” is required and that we all need to buy one of these “Sapling Passes” to log on to our class’s Sapling page online. After receiving my books for the semester, I found my “Sapling Pass” as a small card with a code on it. I followed the teacher’s directions by going online and entering the code to gain access to our Biochemistry’s Sapling site, and I was amazed.

Sapling Learning is an online education program designed for high school and higher education level classes. I have only seen my Biochemistry site in detail, but there are also options available for other science classes such as Analytical Chemistry, Physics, Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and more. On this site, my professor assigns weekly homework assignments where we log on to the Sapling Learning site, enter our usernames and passwords, and then simply click on a module to go to the problem set. These problem sets are unlike many other types of assignments available online. In these modules, we are required to mix certain chemicals, run titrations, analyze graphs, and evaluate data. Plus, there are even interactive problems where we must make up the proper molecule using the Sapling Learning software. These problem sets are extremely interactive for students and also challenge students to apply multiple concepts at once. Students can receive instant feedback and even tips while answering questions. Teachers may optionally choose to give students second or third guesses on graded assignments right after they receive tips on what they did wrong. This program goes beyond simply quizzing and grading students by further challenging students and forcing them to learn the proper mindset and problem solving strategies for science.

The program is also fantastic from the teacher's perspective. The program comes pre-loaded with a lot of different types of questions that teachers can choose to assign to students. Plus, the program tracks everything their students do on the site. This includes times their students are logged on, the amount of time spent on different problems, and which questions were answered correctly and incorrectly. Teachers can look up class statistics to see what percentage of students answered questions correctly and incorrectly. My professor looked at this data for a past problem set and reviewed certain material in class because the majority of us got specific problems wrong. Teachers also have the ability to change up the questions in such a way that every student gets slightly different answers. My professor does this so she can keep track of everyone individually and no pairs of students could work together, thereby masking the weakness of one of the partners. Beyond this, teachers can assign ungraded questions, as well as put time limits and due dates for assignments on the program.

Sapling Learning programs are great in that they can be done easily on the computer with any internet connection. This means homework can be completed anywhere at any time through the internet. One other benefit to Sapling is that it comes at a low $30 price for students. Furthermore, the site offers an eBook of the professors chosen textbook for 30 days completely free. The program also gives students the option of buying the eBook through the Sapling site to use on problems sets and for studying.

Overall, Sapling Learning is a fantastic program for high school and college level science classes. It makes the student’s role in learning more interactive, while allowing teachers to be more efficient and more aware of individual problems in class. Finally, the program is also available at a low cost while integrating technology into the learning process of student.


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