Student calculating budget and finances for university

Cost of Education: How Kritik Adds More Value for Less

Tuition fees, student debt, dropout rates and much more

The cost of education has always been a very important topic for students and society as a whole, and yet, it is not addressed as much as it should be. There is little transparency on information regarding the true cost of completing undergraduate and graduate programs. Additionally, there are concerns over course materials fees such as textbooks and other costs such as amenity fees and matriculation fees and the true value they add to students' education (Davis & al, 2019).

With millions of students entering higher education each year (EducationData, 2021a), one would think that the system is optimized to reduce students' cost burden while maximizing their educational value. However, a study on cost analysis in education has shown that there is a lack of cost-benefit evaluations in climates wherein resources are very limited (Rice, 1997). Sadly, limited is an understatement to students' financial inability to attend and complete higher education while receiving a quality learning experience in today's society.

With that said, to afford higher education, students' take on massive loans to cover the ever-rising tuition fees and other associated costs. According to The Institute for College Access and Success, "two in three college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2018 had student loan debt. These borrowers owed an average of $29,200, 2% higher than the 2017 average of $28,650". Assuming that students enter the workforce six months after they graduate, it takes approximately 20 years for students to pay off their debt (EducationData, 2021b). However, not all students complete their programs, with the overall dropout rate for undergraduate college students in the US being 40% and in Canada being just under 30% (EducationData, 2021c; Government of Ontario, 2020). These alarming numbers of dropout rates and uncompleted programs coupled with increasing tuition fees and debts leave students wondering if there is a more optimized method of acquiring knowledge that is cost-effective, provides quality learning experiences and guarantees better career preparation opportunities.

Higher costs does not equal better education: Quality over quantity

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, recent college graduates' current overall unemployment rate is 3.8%, which is 0.2% higher than the general job market's unemployment rate. Although this might seem insignificant, analyzing the unemployment rates for recent graduates of specific majors such as those in the STEM field is quite alarming. Students who majored in Physics resulted in an unemployment rate of 7.7%, 5.2% for Computer Science majors, 4.9% for Mathematics and General Engineering majors, and the list goes on. Given the high costs of acquiring higher education, one would think that such investment and achievement would automatically result in a more significant competitive edge in the job market. Although this holds true under favourable conditions, most students still feel under-equipped with the right tools, knowledge and skillsets to fairly compete and find employment.

Cost versus quality of education. Finding the balance

A higher education cost does not necessarily correlate to better and higher quality learning experiences. Despite the rise in tuition fees, students are still enrolling in classes but given the scarce resources of universities and colleges, they are subjected to enrolling in large volume classes where learning environments are not as ideal for knowledge creation and retention. Personalized and active learning opportunities are limited. As much as it is ideal for instructors to administer high quality, thought provoking assignments and group projects for immersive learning purposes, carrying out these types of assessments is not feasible in 300+ student-sized classes. As such, students do not have enough opportunities to develop higher order thinking skills as conventional exams and multiple choice-based assessments are administered for time-saving purposes. Naturally, having more students in one class would make it difficult for professors to provide regular feedback and have mentoring opportunities. This could be solved by having more TAs to help with grading and providing feedback to the students but this would undoubtedly increase the tuition even more. Furthermore, textbooks have been notorious for being expensive with other hardcopy published options escalating their prices even more which significantly adds on to students' financial burden. Full-time students are spending approximately $1298 annually on textbooks alone. However, recent research has shown that alternatives such as open educational resources and other forms of knowledge obtainment provide students with the same amount of information and value, if not more, without the high costs of traditional textbooks.

How Kritik can help increase value while lowering costs

Through Kritik, students can obtain more value out of their education in ways that would be impossible with traditional assessments and course requirements. By leveraging peer assessment, students can receive multiple feedback on their assignments frequently instead of heavily relying on TA resources and professors for feedback which is extremely costly and time-consuming. The peer assessment process empowers students to acquire different perspectives on course concepts, consolidate their learning and receive guidance while improving their soft skills such as communication and teamwork skills. These benefits can manifest without needing to consume more university and college resources, employing more TAs than ideal and ultimately, without drastically increasing tuition fees.

Comparing the amount of value students get from peer assessment and the use of textbooks, it can be fairly argued that using Kritik is more effective in reducing costs while increasing benefits. By moving away from the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy associated with textbooks such as memorization and moving towards peer grading and higher-order thinking, students are able to acquire and retain more knowledge for less. Textbooks and TAs are still important, but great alternatives can reduce the overall cost of education while improving student engagement and academic performance.

Most importantly, peer assessment teaches students the process and importance of providing and receiving feedback which is crucial for their future careers and professional development. Unfortunately, this valuable skill is not taught as much to students despite the premium price of education in today's society. By allowing students to participate in an immersive and dynamic learning experience, they are able to acquire the necessary knowledge and life lessons to reach academic success and have better career preparation. Without raising tuition fees and adding too much to course material costs, Kritik is able to add great value to students' education while enhancing their abilities to compete in the job market after graduating.

Conclusion

Although there is still much to be researched on the cost-benefits of the current education system, it stands apparent that students are paying a premium despite the less-optimized value they are receiving. With that said, colleges and universities are all about education. It is an investment that will last a lifetime, so we need to ensure that students are receiving quality education without the extreme financial burden.

LMS

How to Enhance your LMS with Kritik

A learning management system (LMS) is a useful tool for many educators to disseminate course projects, house student grades and act as a communication tool between professors and students. But with the recent shift to online learning as a result of COVID school closures, the limitations of many popular LMS systems became highlighted. Professors aren’t just looking for a tool to post student grades and assignments, professors need tools that help bolster student engagement outside of the classroom. 

Kritik can easily integrate with major LMS providers, so we’re going to run-down how Kritik can enhance your LMS to benefit your students’ learning experience both inside and outside of the classroom. 


Increasing Student Engagement

One of the key issues that has arisen as a result of online learning has been the learning gap incurred as a result of demotivated students. With many educators opting for asynchronous learning as an approach to online learning, students are often left on their own to navigate course materials. Without proper instruction & feedback on assignments submitted, students have felt disengaged with course materials. In a recent study we undertook, we found that over 80% of students want more personalized feedback on their assignments, and nearly 83% of them would be inclined to continue with online learning if their schools invested in technology that gave them the feedback they needed. 

Unfortunately, engagement approaches such as personalized feedback is not something an LMS can offer. Let's look at how Kritik can integrate personalized feedback into your LMS effectively.


Personalized Feedback with your LMS

One of the best options for increased personalized feedback that does not incur more time grading and assessing for professors is peer assessment. Kritik allows students to evaluate each other's work & provide feedback so each student can learn how to improve or gain new perspectives from unique viewpoints. While some LMS platforms offer peer assessment, Kritik’s anonymous peer review & ‘feedback on feedback’ are two features that are unique and help drive student engagement. 

Through interviews, students have routinely said that Krik’s anonymous peer feedback tool enables them to offer personalized feedback without the threat of exposing who they are. This in-turn, reduces bias and ensures overall legitimacy of the feedback. Alongside anonymous feedback, Kritik’s ‘feedback on feedback’ feature ensures students are able to provide comments on the evaluations that they have received. This ensures that students are developing a skill-set in learning how to properly evaluate new ideas which helps increase their critical thinking skills. 


Team-Based Learning

In an effort to save time, many instructors may move to summative forms of assessment such as multiple choice tests or quizzes, however, students do not benefit from memorization tasks. When applied to Bloom’s Taxonomy, the need to move beyond simply memorizing facts is implicit. Students need to harness their understanding of course concepts and apply them to real-world problems to find unique solutions. One way to do this is through team-based learning, which groups students together to solve complex problems. Unfortunately, many LMS platforms do not offer the ability to integrate teams effectively. Not only can Kritik allow teams to submit assessments, it can even group the students together so professors don’t need to allocate time to creating teams. 


Motivating Students to Produce Better Work

LMS platforms are simply repositories of information, the need to help guide students to create better work is something that technology has a role to play. With Kritik, students are motivated to produce high quality work as each student is presented with an evaluation score, which is a score relative to how accurate that student’s evaluation is. Kritik ensures students are grading fairly and accurately, so professors can devote less time to student assessment and more time for one-on-one’s with students to address their learning needs directly.

As the fall term begins, many educators will be using an LMS – some for the first time – take this opportunity to create unique and lasting learning experiences that go beyond just standard technology. Online learning is tough for both students & educators, but introducing technology that has the ability to enhance student learning is an addition that would make your students online learning more enjoyable and impactful. 


Improve student learning

How to Convert Course Content into Kritik Activities

Create better assignments to help students develop critical thinking.

Break large assignments down into smaller activities

Cumulative assignments can be transformed into smaller segments of peer evaluation that will ultimately help your students produce a higher quality final assignment.

How to:

Start by segmenting the steps necessary to creating the final assignment, and creating activities foreach portion. For example, in a research paper, assign:

  • One activity in which the student presents their hypothesis
  • One activity in which the student presents their data collection methodology
  • One activity in which the student presents their findings and discussions

Benefits: By dividing up final assignments into more digestible activities, students will receive rich feedback for every portion of their assignment, over the course of the term. Not only does this help them with content creation, but it also helps them stay afloat in terms of making final assignment deadlines.

Turn Readings into Engaging Material

Students absorb an abundance of content through weekly readings, but they cannot fully exercise this until in-class discussions or during their exams. You can transform this into opportunities for students to retain this information and extend their learning through peer evaluations.

How to:

Per each weekly reading, you can assign quick, frequent activities such as:

  • Creating a question based on the reading materials
  • Sharing notes and comments made on the readings
  • Teaching the readings in a creative way
  • Answering thought/discussion provoking questions
  • Creating a video explaining the contents of the reading

Benefits:Giving students activities that are relevant to assigned readings increases content retention by also enabling students to immediately apply concepts that they have learned. Open discussions and questions about the readings are now also established, therefore adding more depth to the content assigned. This method capitalizes on enriching pre-existing content.

Homework Questions and Problem Sets

Homework questions are also a great repository for peer evaluation content. Not only can students evaluate solutions to questions, but they can also investigate and build on their peer’s thought process.

How to:

Assign activities per set of homework questions, and ask students to clearly outline their thought processes, formulas, and diagrams for peer review. Be sure to share solutions to the questions with the class as soon the deadline is terminated.

Benefits:This method is a great example of automated grading and feedback. When students are given the solution to a problem set, as well as visibility into the deliberation by their peers, they are equipped with the ultimate tools for peer evaluation. Homework questions are typically straightforward, therefore leaving very little room for student error or misjudgment.

Labs and In-Class Activities

In-class teaching methods are easily transferable to Kritik. The beauty of using Kritik for labs and in-class activities is that you can reap the benefits of the concise timing of the activity scheduler, and prolong the discussion far after class time.

How to:

Set the deadline for creation shortly after the lab or in-class activity is done. The creation phase can be used to submit lab results or findings done in class. The evaluation and feedback stage are used as a discussion board for the different conclusions that your students have made through their findings.

Benefits:The instructions of labs and in-class methods are consistent among all students who have attended. As a result, students can share and compare the thoughts and outcomes that were produced in the same session. This allows for them to gather the bigger picture, rather than focusing on a singular experience.

Activity Templates

Kritik offers four activity templates that are explicitly designed with the structure of Bloom’s Taxonomy. These are only suggestive templates, and may be customized. Each template accompanied with sample instructions, objectives and rubrics.

Blooms Taxonomy

Our activity templates focus on three highest levels of cogitative thinking fromBloom's Taxonomy; Analysis, Evaluation, and Creation

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Create Question

This template asks students to formulate a higher order thinking question based on reading comprehension. This activity aims to evaluate the question’s Richness, Complexity, Scope, and Relevance.

Create an Essay

This template prompts students to write an argumentative essay based on a controversial opinion/subject. The rubric criteria includes: Clarity ofThoughts, Accuracy, Creative and Critical Thinking, Source and Evidence.

Create Content to teach Peers

Students are asked to teach content to their peers in a way that promotes higher content retention among their peers. Students are evaluated based onOrganization, Relevance, Clarity, and Knowledge of Content.

Creative Communication

This template asks students to communicate course content in a creative way, (i.e. through illustration, infographic item, summary table, short video, animation, or anything that will help convey the message faster or make it more engaging than the plain text). Students are evaluated by Organization, Knowledge, Text and Readability, Creativity and VisualAids.