Author Archives: Wendy Sun

Online or Lecture?

One of the many problems students face nowadays is the difficulty of coming to class. If you are a bad student who doesn’t go to class, should you have just taken an online course instead? Or will you perform even worse somehow? Which form of education is better, online or traditional? And which of them should you take so you’ll get a better grade.

One of the classes I’m taking this semester is ACCTG 211, the required Accounting class that every Business major has to take. While selecting my courses for the fall, I was given an option to take the lecture version of this course, or an online version of this course. I chose the traditional class setting, but was that a mistake? Would I have done better in the class if I took the online version of it instead?

A fundamental question arises. Do we learn better in a traditional setting or online setting? Living in the 21st century, we are gradually shifting from reality to digital. We take notes by typing on computers instead of writing. We google things we don’t know about and click on a Wikipedia page instead of going to the library and picking up a book. And now we have the option to take online classes instead of going to a traditional one. Are we getting too far away from “reality”? Does some components of learning MUST be in person in order to achieve the optimal amount learning?

An instructor conducted a survey asking students regarding the effectiveness of his video lectures in communicating course content. The results were: 57% of students strongly agree that video lectures are effective, 33% agree, 4% are neutral, and only 6% disagree. Many students said to the open-ended question that it is nice to have a power point of the lecture online. One said they had technical difficulties viewing the video lecture. Another student complained that the video quality was too low making the lecture less appealing.

There are many factors which determine which form of course a person should take. It also depends on your personal preference. Maybe you are a person who need to be in a traditional class setting in order to learn. Maybe you don’t trust yourself to attend traditional class lectures at 8:00AM so you sign up for the online course instead. Maybe you need social interaction with your peers and instructor to do better. Maybe you are working full-time while balancing 20 credits and does not have time to attend lectures so you watch video lectures right after you get off work at 3AM. The real question is, should you choose a traditional class setting even though you aren’t a morning person or have no time? Should you try to make time to go to a lecture because you will get a better grade?

Studies show that online courses require more discipline from the student. This means you have to take it upon yourself to learn and study. Therefore, if you don’t think you can make it to the 8AM lecture, don’t think you’ll do better in an online course. If you have no flexibility in your schedule, you should choose the online class instead. Do not choose the online class so you’ll have more free time. Chances are you’ll spend even more time studying for an online class compared to a traditional class so you should just take the traditional road. If you are an independent person, one who does not like distractions or interactions with other people, online class is for you.

According to the Journal of Public Affairs Education, it is easier for students to ignore the instructor in online classes. On the other hand, online class give less anxiety to students compared to a traditional class.  Online classes provide a deeper understanding of the topic and has a high level of reflection. There are less hierarchies and more equal participation in online classes. On the other hand, traditional class are less likely to cover as much detail, is possible to avoid participation, and have little time to reflect upon ideas.

Online classes have as high as 80% drop rate compared to the 10-20% drop rate in traditional classes.  In a study conducted by Thirunarayanan and Perez-Prad, they found that the online class scored slightly higher than the traditional class, however the difference was not statistically significant. Other studies show that students who do well in school in general can do just as well taking any type of class.

However there is also one factor that may determine which type of class will get you the better grade. Many online courses have quizzes done online. This may mean that it is easier for an online student to cheat compared to a traditional class setting, therefore online students get higher grades. According to Table 3 from Comparing the Effectiveness of Classroom and Online Learning, online students have a higher rate of failure. 10% of students failed in online classes, while only 4% did in traditional class.

In conclusion, there are pros and cons for both online and traditional class settings. From the studies, neither of the classes will give you any grade advantage over the other. However online classes does provide more equal and less intimidating interaction. Furthermore, online classes may be harder because there is a higher rate of failure. In the end it is up to you to choose which type of class is better for you. For me, I think I should have taken the online course for ACCTG instead.

Sit back or else! Or else what?

My parents used to tell me to not watch too much TV and watch from a safe distance or it’ll ruin my eyes. They STILL nag me about using my computer too much and that I will ruin my eyes from staring at my computer screen 24/7. Well nag no longer because sitting too close to a TV or any other screen does NOT cause short-sightedness aka myopia.

Myopia is when the eye cannot focus or see clearly things that are far away. Myopia is caused by the eyeball, which is normally a sphere, turning into an oval shape such as a grape. Since your eyeball changes shape as you grow up, nearsightedness starts during adolescence and eyesight may keep getting worse until you are an adult 20-30, or maybe even older.

A study done at Ohio State University, where researchers followed 4,500 children between the ages of 6 to 11 for over 20 years, showed that there was no causation between myopia and children who spend more time in from of screens. They monitored the children’s screen time and tested their eyesight. They found that watching TV too close or for a long period of time may cause eye strain, but eye strain does not cause myopia.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there is NO way to prevent myopia. The number one risk factor of myopia is your genes. You are more likely to have myopia if both of your parents are shortsighted. In addition, the use of glasses or any type of corrective lenses does not further or hinder the progression of myopia. So no matter what you do, you cannot escape.

The rumor that sitting too close to the TV affects your eyesight goes back to when the television was first invented, almost 100 years ago. This is because TVs in the 1960s emitted about 100,000 times the radiation than TVs today. People feared that sitting too close to the TV will impact your health due to that radiation. However the TVs that we use today do not emit such a dangerous amount of radiation so you have nothing to worry about.

TV does not cause myopia, but myopia may causes children to sit closer to the TV. The null hypothesis in this case is actually correct. Children with myopia sit closer to the television for their own comfort. If a child is sitting too close to the TV, he/she may need a trip to the eye doctor soon.

We live in the 21st century where screens are everywhere. Children as young as infants are laying eyes on these screens. A study conducted by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute shows that for every hour an infant watches videos, they learn six to eight less words than infants who don’t get exposed to the screens. TV may cause developmental problems in infants, but there is no evidence that it ruins their eyesight. So the next time your parents nag you about getting off the computer, tell them it’s not your eyesight that is deteriorating, it is your brain. Oops, is that worse?

Obesity and School Performance

Does obesity affect your school performance? Your weight shouldn’t determine your intelligence but it somehow affects your school performance. Obesity increases risk of heart disease, diabetes, and many other medical problems, but does it also increase risk of doing badly in school?

In a study with 6,250 children ranging from kindergarten to the fifth grade, researchers found that children who were obese scored lower on math tests than non-obese children. With a sample size that big, it should be no coincidence. The study considered many other factors that could possibly cause the lower scores including family income, race, parents’ education levels, etc. However, it still showed a strong correlation between obesity and worse test scores. Studies also show that obesity can affect your child’s school performance as early as kindergarten.

There is a strong correlation between obesity in girls and school performance than obesity in boys. On the contrary, obesity in third – fifth grade boys have almost no to very weak correlation to their school performance. Is this because girls tend to be judged more by their weight, or perhaps they are more self-conscious about it?

Just because you are fat doesn’t automatically mean you are not going to do as well as another classmate who is slimmer than you. There are many possible reasons why obese children do worse in school. One possible reason is because they miss more school days than other children. Another study suggests that children who see themselves as overweight do worse on tests than children who don’t perceive themselves as overweight. This suggests that academic performance correlates to self-esteem and other psychological factors, not pounds. A study shows that obese children have lower levels of self-esteem.

According to Robert Siegel, M.D., excessive weight may affect a child’s intelligence at a cellular level because obesity causes inflammation and other health problems. Another reason why obesity might get you a lower math score is that obesity may have resulted in neglect due to irresponsible parents. If parents don’t care about their child being obese, they might also not care about their academics.

In conclusion, obesity does affect school performance. This is because obesity usually comes with lower self-esteem which affects learning. Obesity also may cause children to go to school less. However, none of this directly means that if you are fat, then you won’t do well in school. Obese children can do just as well in school than any other child. All you have to do is study.

How to Manipulate Others to do Your Bidding

In my PSYCH100 class, I learned about the foot-in-the-door technique. The FITD technique is when you ask someone to do a small favor and when they agree, you then ask for a large favor. They will more likely agree than compared to only asking for the large favor. There is another technique called the door-in-the-face technique where you ask someone to do a huge unreasonable favor first, in which they will say no, then ask for a smaller more reasonable favor. The person will also be more likely to agree with this technique as well. But the question is, do these techniques work and if they do, which is more effective?×3001.jpg

In a 1966 experiment conducted by Freedman, J.L. and Fraser, S.C. regarding the FITD technique, the subjects were tested on 4 scenarios. The small favor was to answer some questions about soap use and the large favor was for 5-6 men to come and inventory all the products in their home. In the first scenario, they were asked to do a small favor, and later a large favor. In the second scenario, they were asked a small favor, but didn’t have them do it, and later a large favor. In the third scenario, they received an explanation of the subject and then asked the large favor. In the fourth scenario, they were only asked the large favor. The results showed that 52.8% agreed to the large favor in the first scenario, 33.33% in the second, 27.8% in the third, and 22.2% in the fourth. This experiment proves that the foot-in-the-door technique does work and 30.6% more effectively in this experiment.

On the other hand, in an experiment regarding the effectiveness of the DITF technique, the subjects were tested on 3 scenarios. The small favor was to chaperone juvenile delinquents on a one-day trip to the zoo. The large favor was to volunteer to counsel juvenile delinquents for two hours a week for two years. In the first scenario, the subjects were asked the large favor, then followed by the small favor. In the second scenario, they were asked only the small favor. In the third scenario, they received a description of the large favor, but was only asked to do the small favor. The results showed that 50% agreed to the large favor in scenario one, 17% for scenario two, and 25% for scenario three. This experiment proves that the door-in-the-face technique also works and by 25% more too.

There are many hypotheses as to why these techniques work. Some researchers say that the DITF technique works because of reciprocal concessions or social responsibilities. Reciprocal concessions makes us think that we should at least agree to the smaller request since the persuader is conceding with the larger request. As humans we feel like we have the social responsibility to help others therefore we should at least agree to the smaller request. However, both explanations do not fully explain why these techniques work. Other researchers think that the techniques work due to people wanting to maintain a good image or reducing guilt.

The real question is, which method is better? In a study conducted in an after school center in Hong Kong, sixty 2nd-grade students were asked to fill out an arithmetic worksheet. 12 out of 20 students agreed using the FITD technique and 18 out of 20 students agreed using the DITF technique. The results show that the DITF technique is better. However that may be only due to chance. It is hard to say because the study size is very small and maybe the DITF technique was only better when used towards children, or only that particular scenario.

In a meta-analysis conducted by Alexandre Pascual with 22 studies and over 3,000 subjects, it showed that there was no significant differences in the effectiveness in either of the two techniques. One technique may be better than the other in one type of scenario and vice versa.  The average percentage of compliance using the FITD technique is 45.2%. The average percentage of compliance using the DITF technique is 41.1%. The 4.1% difference is not much considering the range of compliance goes from 2.7% to 100%.

In conclusion, it is surprisingly easy to manipulate people. Whether it is FITD or DITF, chances are you’ll get the person to do your bidding. The next time you want your sister to do your chores, try asking her to do it for one day, and then later asking her to do it for a week. Or you can ask her to do your chores for a week, and then ask for just three days, or just one day.

Does Daylight Savings Cause Heart Attacks?

If someone told you that daylight savings could cause heart attacks, would you believe it? Would you fear that you make never wake up just because we set our clocks an hour forward? Would you move to Asia, South America, or any place where daylight savings isn’t observed in order to avoid it? Studies show that the rate of heart attacks increase by 25% the following Monday when daylight savings occurred compared to every other Monday of the year. But how does something that we do twice a year, that we have all accepted as “law of nature”, could potentially be life threatening?

There are two times when daylight savings occur: the spring daylight savings where you turn your clocks an hour forward and the fall daylight savings where you turn your clocks an hour backwards. Studies show that the daylight savings that turn your clocks an hour forward increased risk of a heart attack by 25%. The daylight savings which we turn our clocks an hour backwards does not increase risk of a heart attack. On the contrary, researchers found that turning our clocks an hour back lowered the number of heart attacks by a whole 21%.

Daylight savings don’t directly cause heart attacks. The reason why there is an increased rate of heart attacks the Monday after daylight savings is because it disrupted your sleep schedule. Daylight savings cause disruptions in your biological processes. Our bodies have a “biological clock.” If you sleep at the same time every night and wake up to your 8:00 AM alarm every morning, your body gets accustomed to that time frame. When daylight savings occur, that 8:00 AM alarm becomes 7:00 AM, disrupting your biological clock.

Sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of heart attack. People who get less than 6 hours of sleep a night has a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. People have more heart attacks because they get one less hour of sleep. When sleeping, your body conducts a lot of biological processes such as glucose metabolism, blood pressure regulation, etc. Because you woke up an hour before your usual time, your body’s processes got disrupted, hence you become more prone to a heart attack. This is especially worse if you have a heart disease or don’t sleep a healthy amount only lose one more hour due to daylight savings.

Cardiology fellow, Dr. Amneet Sandhu, M.D., conducted a study examining 42,000 hospital admissions in Michigan. He found out the average number of heart attack patients on Mondays is 32. On the Monday following daylight savings however, there was an average of 8 additional heart attacks. The study is large enough to say that this is no coincidence or that it is very difficult to say that this is pure chance.

It is clear that people prone to heart attacks should take extra caution around the time of the spring daylight savings. If daylight savings causes an increased risk of heart attack, should we not have daylight savings at all? I’d rather have the sky become dark by 4pm in the winter than have a heart attack, no? Another way to prevent having a heart attack on daylight savings Monday would be to prepare for it in advance. A week or two before daylight savings occur, sleep a few minutes earlier and wake up a few minutes earlier than usual. For example, if you sleep at 10:00 PM and wake up at 7:00AM, try sleeping at 9:50PM and waking up at 6:50AM. The goal is to shift your sleep schedule an hour back slowly. By the time the day of daylight savings comes, your sleep schedule will be 9:00PM to 6:00AM. That way, when the time changes, it will become 10:00PM to 7:00AM again. Small increments of change is less impactful than suddenly missing a whole hour. So the next time someone tries to wake you up earlier than usual, you can tell them, “Don’t wake me up early or else I might have a heart attack.”

Cheating Lessons

Dan Ariely published a book about cheating called The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How we Lie to Everyone- Especially Ourselves. The book describes multiple experiments about cheating and also Ariely’s own experiments where he created scenarios that would prompt people to cheat. Ariely came to the conclusion that “under the right conditions, most people are willing to cheat a little bit”. One would expect all people to be innocent, but under certain situations people may behave out of the ordinary. Those people are concerned more about the end results over the method used to attain that result, even if it means cheating. In some situations it would feel as though the ends justify the means, however cheating is never justifiable.

There are many factors that affect the desire to cheat in a school environment.  These factors include Sex, Age, School, type of course (online or lecture), size of course (classroom or auditorium), etc. However, pinpointing the specific environment that encourages more people to cheat and assigning more proctors to watch students like a hawk during an exam is not the solution. Instead, one should adjust the environment so that people are less tempted to cheat. There are many factors that affect the desire to cheat. This includes: the course itself, the course requirements, the nature of the course, the professor, etc. With the right mix of these factors one could potentially create an environment where students are less willing to cheat on a test than compared to another environment where students are willing to cheat despite the presence of proctors.

A trio of researchers in Britain conducted an experiment called “Princess Alice.” In this experiment, a handful of kids age 5-9 are told to throw a ball at a target while using their non-dominant hand and also have their backs facing the target. Because of how impossible this task is, many kids resorted to cheating in order to get the prize for landing the ball on the target, a small toy. The children are put into 4 categories: those who had adult supervision, those who believed in/unsure Princess Alice’s existence, those who didn’t believe in Princess Alice’s existence, and those who did not have supervision at all. Princess Alice sort of symbolizes the children’s guilty conscience; the idea of a being that is watching their every move made the children unwilling to cheat. What was interesting about the Princess Alice experiment is that the group of children who believed in her existence performed almost the same as the children who were in the presence of an adult. If we could somehow use the Princess Alice concept and apply it to college classrooms, we may be able to reduce cheating. On the other hand this experiment only had 11 subjects which make the results not so reliable.

George M Diekhoff and a group of researchers conducted a survey regarding cheating behaviors in higher education. About 700 students from United States and Japanese Universities were surveyed. The purpose of this survey was to find out which types of students are more likely to cheat. The study shows that 55% of Japanese students admitted to cheating, more than twice the amount of American students. Japanese students are more willing to cheat because more is on the line for them. This is because Japanese students’ grades heavily rely on the final exam with their final grade extremely dependent on the performance of one exam. On the other hand, American students’ grades are based on many things such as multiple exams throughout the year, quizzes, and homework. Thus, Japanese students are more compelled to cheat than compared to American students.

“High-stakes” tests induce people to cheat. Courses with only two or three test grades that affect your final grade would pressurize an average student to cheat. These high-stakes tests will induce your desire to cheat by so much that even the punishment for getting caught cheating wouldn’t faze you. A good example of this is the Chinese civil-service exams. If you do well on the CCS exams, you will be guaranteed a good job position in the Chinese government. If you fail however, you will be a dishonor to your family and not get a good job (unless you decide to devote another 3 years to studying). The punishment for cheating in the CCS exam was extremely severe and goes up to the death penalty. Even the death penalty did not faze the CCS test takers because of how “high-stake” the test was.

Does this mean we shouldn’t have any high-stake tests in our education system? No, high-stake tests are essential, but the correct solution for this is to have many lower stake tests/quizzes to better prepare the students so they will do well on the high-stake tests without being tempted to cheat. Reducing cheating and increasing learning go hand in hand.

75% of students surveyed admitted to cheating at least once in college. This 75% has been constant since 1963. In recent years, in a survey with 150,000 students across different institutions the amount admitted to cheating was between 60-70%. You may think that the cheating rate has lowered, however the method of survey (online vs paper for the 1963 survey) could affect the results. On the bright side, there is no concrete evidence that the rate of cheating has increased either. The fact that this number, 75%, has remained constant for the past 50 years indicate to us that we haven’t been doing enough regarding this matter.

Students are less tempted to cheat when a course offers multiple low-stake tests compared to just two or three high-stake tests. Not only does multiple low-stake tests reduce cheating, it also increases learning. In an experiment conducted by Henry L. Roediger III and Jeffrey D. Karpicke, the participants had to study 40 English-Swahili word pairs and was tested on their memory. One group was given all 40 words at once and was tested after every study session. Another group was also given 40 words and was tested after every study session but they removed every correct pair they got correct after each test. Both groups performed the same on the four post study session tests and also the final exam. The conclusion from this experiment is: it isn’t about the amount of information given, it is about the frequency of testing. However it isn’t just simply frequent testing either, it is about the memory and retrieval of information. There are many ways to practice retrieving information. For example, “minute paper” is where you take out a piece of paper in the last 5 minutes of class and write concepts you learned in class that day.  We cannot fully prevent cheating in the school environment, however, schools can definitely change the nature of the courses and course requirements so that students are not pressured or tempted to cheat.

The Mitochondria is the Powerhouse of the Cell

I have always hated science because most of the time it is just memorizing facts like “the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.” Our education system is built on impractical information taught in our earlier years of education. I know science is much more than just facts, however in the end, you have to know some of these facts to actually discover things. Memorization was never my strong suit so I struggled through most of my science classes in high school. I am taking this course because I needed a gen ed class that fit my schedule and is also a “science” class. This course seems to focus more on concepts and less on facts.

I do not plan on majoring in a science simply because I have no interest in the sciences. On the other hand, I am interested in business and I am currently in the Smeal College of Business planning to major in Accounting. I am a practical person. I like to learn about things that I can apply in real life. Majoring in Accounting would benefit me because then I can for example file my taxes myself instead of paying someone else to do it. Living in NYC, I’ve always dreamed of working on the 87th floor of a fancy firm in Wall St. One can dream.

According to Business Insider,  the top paying college majors is engineering (petroleum, chemical, nuclear, etc). You can say that engineering is similar to science, but I don’t think so. Science majors don’t even show up on the list. I’ve seen many people with a biology/physics/chemistry degree to end up being a high school teacher, one of the worst jobs to have in my opinion.