Saturday, May 09, 2009

Aplia in the Washington Post

Greg Mankiw points to an article about economist Paul Romer and his interactive homework software Aplia in yesterday's Washington Post, written by Steven Pearlstein. I have used Aplia for the last several years in both economics and finance classes with great success. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Today, Aplia is used at more than 815 colleges by 170,000 students per term, with course offerings covering more than a dozen subjects (economics, finance, accounting, business law, statistics, taxation, philosophy,
Aplia website here). A quarter of all students enrolled in college economics classes work with Aplia.

Students seemed to like Aplia's engaging and easy-to-use software, as well as the feedback. Professors liked Aplia even more. It allowed them to leverage the grade-grubbing instincts of today's college students to get them to do homework -- but without having to spend countless hours reading and correcting the assignments. They also got reports from Aplia identifying which students were having the most trouble with the material and which concepts were stumping the class as a whole.

For me, however, what's really exciting about Aplia is that it finally holds out the possibility of bringing to higher education the same productivity revolution that has lowered costs and improved quality in almost every other industry over the past two decades.

By relieving instructors of the considerable burden of reviewing homework assignments, the technology makes it possible for universities to require professors to teach more students, either by increasing class sizes or the number of classes they teach. More important, it frees instructors to spend more time preparing for class, working with individual students and even doing their own research.

Note: For those unfamiliar with Aplia:

Founded in 2000 by economist and Stanford professor Paul Romer, Aplia is an educational technology company dedicated to improving learning by increasing student effort and engagement.

For students, Aplia offers a way to stay on top of coursework with regularly scheduled homework assignments. Interactive tools and content further increase engagement and understanding.

Aplia is a homework management and course management system integrated into one with a digital text, current event news articles, and math tutorials. The problem sets are interactive, auto-graded, give immediate feedback, and are written in the same language as the book. What's more, all of Aplia's materials are predicated on getting students better prepared and more engaged in the subject matter.

9 Comments:

At 5/09/2009 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would imagine that there is no productivity increase as the professors likely use the software, no longer grade homework, and still teach the same number of courses (2 per semester for full and associate professors where I went, more asst, lecturer). There are a wide range of disciplines not covered by the application and faculty senates (or other organization) are not going to agree to extra courses.

Also, the application costs schools money. Professors are paid a fixed salary. With no productivity increase the application just makes education more expensive.

 
At 5/09/2009 8:43 PM, Blogger mongander said...

Anon said, "With no productivity increase the application just makes education more expensive."

What about more productive learning?
Don't forget the purpose of education.

 
At 5/09/2009 10:45 PM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

I wish we had at least the statistics compomnent of this application when I slogged my way to a university undergraduate degree. We sould take a very large lecture class three days a week and small "labs" two days a week. I admit to being very lost and did not learn a thing from the very broken english speaking lab assistants. A good tutor helped me ( I still don't know how I afforded it). It looks like Aplia would have benefited myself and many of class mates greatly.

 
At 5/13/2009 9:07 AM, Anonymous jamieroth348 said...

Anon Said:"Also, the application costs schools money."

Just so everyone is on the same page... Aplia is not a program sold to the school, it's sold to each one of us students. So it does not cost the school money. I don't know where that came from.

 
At 5/19/2009 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I would imagine that there is no productivity increase as the professors likely use the software, no longer grade homework, and still teach the same number of courses (2 per semester for full and associate professors where I went, more asst, lecturer)."

Aplia frees up time professors spend on menial tasks, such as grading and posting feedback, so that they can focus on what they're best at: helping students learn. I would argue that giving a professor more time to focus on helping students learn is definitely an increase in productivity.

"Also, the application costs schools money."

Aplia does not cost schools money. Students purchase Aplia the same way they'd purchase a textbook. Aplia offers various pricing options, which often times save students money.

Therefore, not only does Aplia increase professor productivity, but it often times decreases the cost of education and improves the student experience.

 
At 6/09/2009 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It does increase productivity because it increases the potential class size.

A professor without an assistant can grade and give quality comments on how many assignments a week in a single course? 30? 50? 80?

With Aplia a professor can focus on doing quality lectures, meeting with students, and choosing/creating quality assignments (instead of easy to grade assignments) for large classes - 100, 200, or more.

What's more the students get grades and feedback immediately instead of waiting for a week for the professor to return their assignments.

 
At 6/11/2010 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Aplia does not cost schools money. Students purchase Aplia the same way they'd purchase a textbook. Aplia offers various pricing options, which often times save students money."

There are choices when buying a textbook. Aplia only offers one price with the ebook embedded. So if you have a buddy who wants to give you the book you still have to pay high costs for the ebook + homework.
Aplia is a rip off. It gives no options to purchase the book from elsewhere, there is no resale value and students will not have the information for future reference. Charging the students to buy there homework is not right and makes the student pay the price to help make the professors job easier.a

 
At 3/28/2011 11:46 PM, Blogger david said...

Let me rant....I hate aplia! I'm a student who had to purchase the text for $75, which is the cheapest used book I could find (and I looked every where). On the first day of class the professor says, "buy your access to aplia." I never heard of it, but I figured it'll cost $15 or so. Turns out the damn thing charges $40!!! WTF!!!! I'm infuriated, especially because there is nothing I can do about it. My last econ prof. assigned HW from the text, but this one is just lazy if you ask me.
Damn you Aplia!!

 
At 4/14/2011 10:45 PM, Blogger Sam said...

David, your used book cost more than the ebook version and the other services that Aplia provided. Why didn't you sell the printed book and save your money?

 

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