Retrieval practice enhances online learning in academic courses

Michael A. Kolitsky


Retrieval practice is described as a pedagogy that includes ways that students have a chance to recall information during their study process. With the introduction of online learning and course management systems which permit secure testing online, a way is provided to generate many sets of small quizzes from large question pools which can serve as an efficient digital method for practicing recall of the information to be learned. Course management systems also provide a way to capture and store the results of the small quizzes used for retrieval practice. This study looks at data captured by taking numerous small quizzes as the retrieval learning process and compares the captured data sets to the grade distribution in the major exams for which the small quizzes are being used as a way to learn the material being tested. The overall results demonstrate that the use of retrieval practice does enhance student learning and also was found to lower the drop rate for the micro and macro anatomy courses studied.

Keywords: retrieval practice, online courses, small quizzes, higher grades, drop rate



Michael A. Kolitsky

The author received his Ph.D. from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. and is now retired but teaching online for The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Mike was a tenured professor of Biology at UTEP and was also appointed Associate Vice President for Instructional Technology overseeing the technology design and faculty training for a new Undergraduate Learning Center. He was the Principal Investigator for a 2.5 million dollar NASA grant to establish an instructional support and training center at UTEP for University and regional K-12 instructors. Mike also received a University of Texas Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award at UTEP and earlier was awarded a Distinguished Natural Sciences Curriculum Innovation award for his Embryology videodisc and HyperEmbryo courseware from EDUCOM. After leaving UTEP, he was appointed a founding board member for NJEDge.Net, the higher education network for New Jersey and served as Dean of Academic Computing and Distance Education at Atlantic Cape Community College prior to retirement. Mike was a consultant for the Rutgers University Library FIPSE grant to establish the New Jersey Digital Highway and also assisted in the production of several shared content objects (SCOs) with The University of Wisconsin-Madison Academic ADL Co-Lab FIPSE-sponsored effort to support effective online teaching. Mike is currently exploring how 3D laser cutting technology can be utilized in making audio-responsive tactile templates for learning cell biology and anatomy by students who are blind or visually impaired.

About the article


The article is in the printed version on pages 47-53.

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How to cite

Kolitsky, M. A. (2020). Retrieval practice enhances online learning in academic courses. e-mentor, 2(84), 47-53.