Date posted: 27/02/2020

Get your head in the game: The alternative approach to academic learning that’s making a difference

As technology continues to evolve and change the way we do things, perhaps one of the things that’s changed the most is how we learn.

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As the future of work is being augmented by technology, the future of education is also in the throes of digital transformation. That's why Dr. Grainne Oates, Associate Professor at Swinburne University, believes it's important for academics and teachers to adopt and pioneer alternative teaching methods that resonate with how students learn today.

A report conducted by the Grattan Institute found that 40 percent of Australian school students are unproductive, bored, and struggling to keep up in class on a regular basis.1 Dr Oates revealed her accounting students were no exception.

"Introductory accounting can be a complex topic, resulting in a lack of student engagement, high failure rates and low student retention," Dr Oates said. "I felt that we were not providing an experience that was meeting the needs of our students."

Dr Grainne Oates CA
Dr Grainne Oates CA

Moving with the times

Despite Dr Oates' efforts to jazz up her lectures with interactive games, end of semester grades were still not ideal.

After observing the behaviour of her students however, she found that all 500 of her students were glued to their smartphones. This got her thinking about how technology could be used as a core part of the learning process.

"Technology is an enabler and it can be used very effectively to influence students' learning. I actually believe the mobile phone is an underutilised resource and it can be used in a much more productive and effective way than we currently use it. Education is one way in my opinion."
Dr Grainne Oates CA, Associate Professor in Accounting at Swinburne University.

In response to her findings, Dr. Oates decided to create a mobile app, Quitch. Unlike other e-learning platforms, Quitch breaks down course material into bite-sized, digestible content in the form of small quizzes to make it more interactive.

"Quitch is your knowledge companion and it is used to reinforce and consolidate your primary learning," Dr. Oates says. "It allows the user to enjoy learning by motivating them in a fun and entertaining way. The learner gets immediate actionable feedback, and their areas of difficulty are identified in real-time."

How Quitch is making a difference for students

Quitch has become successful due to its ability to satisfy the needs of its target market.

Laptops aren't as easily transportable as mobile devices, and emails are often left unread. Providing learning opportunities via mobile phones that are readily available in the hands of students skips the step of buying books, researching information or being tutored. Students can learn from just the tap of a finger.

Real-time data provides students with immediate feedback, eliminating tedious waiting periods that often come with receiving assessment reviews or email responses from a lecturer.

While Quitch is designed to be an e-learning platform, the biggest contributor to its success comes from the gamified delivery of learning. Much like a game, the app features include point attribution, timed questions, competitive leaderboards, achievement badges and progression analytics for each quiz.

Dr. Oates says the fun, competitive nature of working to improve your prior points helps to motivate students to set aside time and put effort into completing the quiz. With a feature that allows indefinite chances to complete a quiz or task, students who struggle to understand the material can take their time to process it and get it right.

"International students have found Quitch extremely beneficial because it takes them a little while longer to gauge what the question is given the need to convert from one language to another but in this instance, they could practise as often as they wanted," Dr. Oates says.

As technology continues to change the way we work and learn, Dr. Oates encourages academics to embrace technology and contemporary models of teaching to engage with their students.

"It is important for both students and teachers to keep an open mind on how technology can positively impact student learning. As innovators, educators and those of us running educational technology companies we have a responsibility to create products that make a positive impact. We have a duty to continuously improve the learning experience and keep working with students and educators to find out what works," she says.

If you are interested in connecting with Dr. Grainne Oates to find out more about Quitch and her work at Swinburne University of Technology, contact her via email: [email protected] or [email protected] or find her on LinkedIn.