McKay School PhD Student Receives $15,000 Research Award

Image courtesy of Bob Bodily

Bob Bodily, a PhD candidate from the McKay School of Education, was recently awarded a $15,000 BYU Graduate Research Fellowship. Over 100 applications were submitted across campus and Bodily’s proposal was one of about 30 chosen.

“My idea originated from an interest in learning analytics and improving education using data,” said Bodily. “I am interested in seeing if students’ behavior changes when they see how they compare to others and how teachers can better motivate students.”

Similar tools are already available: for example, the grade section of BYU Learning Suite includes a bar graph which enables students to visualize how their performance compares to performance of others in the class. Bodily’s idea is to expand that type of engagement data and make data more meaningful to both students and professors.

“Imagine if professors could see how often [students] view course content, how they scored on individual course outcome items in a quiz, or when they logged onto the learning management system,” said Bodily. “By being able to track students, professors could intervene earlier to offer help to those struggling.” Aside from spending his time researching, Bodily is on BYU's ultimate frisbee team

Aside from spending his time researching, Bodily is on BYU's ultimate frisbee team. Image courtesy of Bob Bodily

Broken down, Bodily’s idea is to create a program that enables visualization of student progress and highlights patterns to facilitate conclusions. By seeing this type of performance data, students and professors would better understand how to have successful interaction in a class.

Because it is difficult to gather learning data through existing online learning management systems like Learning Suite, Bodily is using the money to develop and build his own visualization engine and is designing a pilot to test with university students. He will also use the award for conference travel and registration in order to present research, provide incentives for instructors and students to participate, and buy research supplies.

Bodily credits much of his success to the relationships he has developed with faculty members. He appreciates how professors in BYU’s Instructional Psychology and Technology Department take time to care about their students and celebrate their successes.

Any BYU graduate student can apply for the BYU Graduate Research Fellowship. Bodily said he would encourage anyone interested to apply because they never know what might happen. “Everyone looking back can see the hand of God in their lives,” said Bodily. “Usually you are not where you thought you would be when you started. The best thing for your career and your life is to live it in a way that you are guided.”

For more information on the award and application, visit graduatestudies.byu.edu.

Writer: Whitney Wilcox

Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922