Online P-sets & Thought Questions in Introduction to Finance

Management (Course 15)
Andrew Lo
Andrew Lo
Digital Innovations & Tools
Online Assessments & Rapid Feedback

Professor Andrew Lo teaches 15.401, Introduction to Finance, to Sloan MBA students and MIT undergraduates. A veteran scholar and faculty member with over thirty years of experience, Lo decided two years ago to explore using MITx as a way to improve teaching and learning in his course.

TA Resources Overburdened
Lo knew that a large amount of TA resources were spent on grading problem sets. Students often did not receive corrected homework for 2 or 3 weeks, by which time the class curriculum had moved on to new topics.

Online P-sets Lighten TA load, Accelerate Student Learning
Lo recruited the assistance of Dr. Shomesh Chaudry, who as a TA in 6.041 had been one of the first to use MITx, to put all of the p-sets for 15.401 online on the MITx platform.

Configured to offer immediate feedback, the online p-sets allowed students to know immediately whether they were on track with the material. In addition, having the p-sets automatically graded freed up TAs to spend more time on individual tutoring and helping students with problems. This resulted in fewer students left behind because TAs could catch problems sooner and students did not need to wait for feedback.

Thought Questions
In addition to online p-sets, Prof. Lo also uses MITx to pose “thought questions” in order to gauge the class’s understanding of concepts. The responses help Prof. Lo tailor his lectures to students’ conceptual needs. Although not graded, thought questions are part of an individual’s participation grade. Thus Lo is guaranteed of student engagement, without adding the undue stress of them having to get the questions correct.

MITx provides valuable feedback
In addition to helping students, the online p-sets give TAs aggregated data on how the class as a whole is doing and where there may be shared areas of confusion. For Prof. Lo, thought questions allow him to efficiently “take the temperature” of his class and adjust lecture material accordingly.