University of Michigan Physics Department Higher Education Tech Innovation

E2Coach marries content and data to generate tailored support for each student in intro science and math classes.

Given the size of [introductory science] courses (400–700 students), meeting with each student is impossible. Yet we know the importance of personalized feedback and advice: Different students need different advice. The E2Coach project solves this dilemma by applying computer tailored communication technology.”
—Timothy McKay, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Michigan

The Innovation: E2Coach

Large class sizes and limited resources curtails the amount of individual support faculty can give students in their high-enrollment introductory science courses. To address this challenge, the E2Coach web application generates individual student websites and sends personalized messages to students about course content, advice on study methods and resources, and reminders.

Students say the tool reminds them to check their progress and watch for pitfalls, provides valuable specific pointers to successful learning strategies, and helps them to recognize the importance of working and reworking problems. 

Results Achieved:  The more frequently that students use E2Coach’s targeted, personalized support, the better students do academically.

  • Users outperformed nonusers (students who never signed up or completed the initial survey for E2Coach, an opt-in service).
  • Occasional users outperformed nonusers  by 0.15 letter grades. Frequent users outperformed nonusers by 0.32 letter grades, according to the project’s final grant report.

Long term Goal: E2Coach’s expansion beyond UM’s physics courses. UM’s introductory statistics, chemistry, and biochemistry courses adopted E2Coach in fall 2013. In addition, campus-wide discussions are exploring the inclusion of personalized communication in all interactions with students, e.g., an academic advising resource. UM’s IT Council committed significant funds to E2Coach and other learning analytics efforts over the next five years.

E2Coach Background and Demonstration
Michigan's World Class: Electronic coaching offers tailored help
Students and faculty discuss their E2Coach experiences.

The Grant Project:

The UM Department of Physics received a grant from NGLC in April 2011.

NGLC’s grant enabled the project team to meld E2Coach’s various components into a single web application through the following activities:

  • developing a data framework to determine each student’s individual support requirements
  • creating meaningful and effective student advice, messages, and content
  • adapting a tailored communications technology designed for health-related interventions.