LASSO: Learning About STEM Student Outcomes
What is LASSO?
Learning About STEM Student Outcomes (LASSO) is an online platform to support instructors assessing their courses. The platform administers assessments online to students, freeing up class time, and automatically analyzes the data.
Recommended LASSO practices
To maximize student participation and the quality of the LASSO data, we recommend instructors:
- Provide points for participating
- Provide multiple reminder to participate (in and out of class)
- Communicate the goals
- Avoid time limits
- Do not share the answers or students' scores
Why LASSO was developed
We developed the Learning About STEM Student Outcomes (LASSO) online assessment platform to increase instructor use of research-based assessments (RBAs). LASSO does this by making it easy to collect and analyze high-quality evidence about student learning in their courses. Specifically, LASSO simplifies the process of administering, scoring, and analyzing RBAs and saves class time by automating the process online. Course results are anonymized and aggregated in the LASSO database to provide instructors normative feedback about their student outcomes.
RBAs, such as the Force Concept Inventory, measure students' knowledge of concepts or attitudes that are core to a discipline. The LASSO database offers researchers access to a large-scale, multi-disciplinary, and longitudinal student and course-level data. The database can save researchers significant time and allow them to investigate novel research questions that require large datasets.
LASSO Supports Instructors
To measure student changes in STEM courses, the LASSO platform hosts, administers, scores, and analyzes student pretest and posttest scores online. Figure 1 outlines the steps for instructors to use LASSO. The LASSO platform is hosted on the Learning Assistant (LA) Alliance website.
Figure 1. Steps to assessing a course using the LASSO platform.
Instructors add new courses by answering a short series of questions about their course. Instructors then select assessments from the LASSO repository to administer to their students. As of the Fall '21 term, LASSO hosts 63 research-based conceptual and attitudinal assessments across the STEM disciplines. The full list of instruments can be viewed on the LASSO instruments page. Once instructors upload a course roster with emails and select a deadline for the pretest, they can launch the pretest. Each student receives an email with participation instructions including a personalized link to their online assessment. Students first choose whether they would like their answers to be anonymized and aggregated into the LASSO research database. They then complete a set of demographics questions and the RBA.
After students have completed their pretests, instructors can download a spreadsheet of their students' raw and scored responses. They can use the student responses to inform teaching practices, such as identifying concepts the students are more knowledgeable about, identifying students who may need additional support, and creating student small groups.
During the final weeks of the course, instructors follow the same steps for launching and tracking their students' progress on the posttests as they did on the pretest. Instructors can then download a spreadsheet with their students' pre and posttest responses as well as a final report. The spreadsheet supports faculty who wish to research their own course outcomes or upload their results to another data analysis system (e.g., Data Explorer). The final report is an assessment-specific PDF that provides instructors with an easy-to-understand analysis about their class's performance.
LASSO hosts user generated reports through Shiny that allow instructors to explore their data and see how their courses compare to similar courses.
Figure. 2 Scores for first semester physics courses with the dark line representing the average courses.
LASSO Supports Research
The LASSO Platform aggregates and anonymizes the assessment data for researchers with IRB approval to use. Most students who take part in LASSO assessments agree to share their anonymized data with researchers. Besides providing researchers with information about student performance and demographics, the database also provides course-level information (e.g., goals of the course, how many times the instructor has taught the course before, and the class size). As of the Fall '21 term, the LASSO research database has data from 57,953 students, in 1,635 courses, from 113 institutions.
While all instructor features on LASSO are free, there are fees to access to the LASSO researcher database. The fees are small enough to not prevent researcher access to the database while providing funds to make the LASSO platform sustainable.
The LASSO platform's purpose is to support instructors in implementing research-based teaching practices in their courses by providing them with simple, accurate, and reliable assessments for their courses and to support research on STEM instruction. The LASSO platform makes it easy for instructors to assess their courses, supports instructors interpreting the results from their assessments, and provides them with documentation summarizing their assessment results. Large-scale, multi-disciplinary data collection allows researchers to further understanding of student learning in STEM.