Campus Technology Magazine names Purdue’s Pattern a top innovation of 2017

Every semester Beth Holloway, assistant dean of undergraduate education for the College of Engineering, knows that more than a few students will drop, fail or withdraw from introductory thermodynamics course in mechanical engineering, ME200.

In the fall of 2016, Holloway partnered with ITaP’s Teaching and Learning Technologies team on using Pattern – a “quantified-self” app that allows students to track study behaviors. She deployed Pattern in a single section of the thermodynamics course to get students to compare their study habits to their peers, and to gain insight into the behavior of successful students. Dr. Holloway stands in Armstrong Hall

The results from that initial test were so successful that Pattern was expanded to all sections of the introductory course and is now being recognized as one of the top innovations of the year by Campus Technology Magazine, which has awarded Pattern the Campus Technology Impact Award for Student Systems & Services.

The Campus Technology Impact Awards, selected by a team of higher education technology leaders, annually honor projects that have benefitted an institution and the higher education community at large. Winners will be featured in the October issue of Campus Technology’s digital magazine, as well as be profiled on its website and e-newsletters.

Holloway and ITaP educational technologist Brandon Karcher say the use of Pattern in ME200 focused on study habits during four weeks of the semester – the weeks preceding three exams and the final. Students were given extra credit to log their time on Pattern, which allows users to track such data as time spent reading notes, working problems, attending help sessions or going to office hours.

As students log their data, Pattern provides feedback about ways the student can be more efficient with their time, suggests when to study and assesses how long students should be spending on tasks.

The idea, says Karcher, is similar to other quantified-self technology popular today, like fitness trackers or calorie-counting apps, which can help people make behavioral changes by making them aware of their habits and patterns.

“We are putting students into the driver’s seat with their own learning analytics,” Karcher says. “Many projects collect data and use analytics in helpful ways, but not many turn the data around and give it right back to students.”

Holloway would take the data and compare it to grades on exams, helping students see the correlation between behavior and success.

“You could definitely see there’s a connection between the number of hours studied and grades earned, or that there was one type of studying done by more of the students who got an A on the exam,” says Holloway. “Being able to reflect that to the class, our hope was that would guide them to maybe change their behavior for the next exam.”

Faculty and administrators too benefitted, as Pattern helped identify how satisfied students were with various help options – like study sessions and office hours – providing feedback about what helped and what didn’t.

“I think it can be very powerful for the students to be able to see what they’re doing and where they stand both in absolute terms and relative to their peers,” Holloway says. “And I think that this also gives us a lot of data to say on the first day of class that students who are successful in this class do X, Y and Z – and it’s not just anecdotal from the professor, but there’s actual data to back that up.”

Pattern is available for any student or instructor at Purdue and has been implemented as a learning tool in multiple courses. Faculty interested in using Pattern in their courses can contact for more information.

Writer: Dave Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-496-7998,

Last updated: July 31, 2017

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