Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Technology, Mind, and Behavior






36 pp.


Students’ success in undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses requires effective studying behavior, but also the motivation to enact it. Promoting students’ achievement in STEM has commonly focused on either study strategies (cognitive) or motivational interventions; we hypothesized that combinations of these would be more effective. Using a learning management system (LMS) for delivery, we iteratively developed and tested the effect of different combinations of one of the four cognition-focused with one of the three motivation-focused intervention modules. Participants were 3,092 undergraduate introductory biology students tested in 10 studies at three universities over 4 years. They were randomly assigned to either a no-treatment control condition or one of the 17 conditions involving either single or combined intervention modules delivered over an entire semester. Course grades were provided by the instructor. We used metaanalytic techniques to capture the effect of students’ access to the interventions on grades, and to test whether differences across experiments changed the effect size for the interventions. Averaging across the studies, the intervention had an effect of g = .30. All 10 moderators were significant: Cognitive + Motivational versus either one alone, timely access to the intervention, iterative development phase, type of cognitive or type of motivation module, the specific cognitive-motivation combination, university, academic year, semester, first versus second semester of biology, and course content. We conclude that combined interventions delivered via an LMS can meaningfully improve undergraduate students’ course grades (corresponding to 6.6 percentage points on final course grade), with minimal extra work for instructors. However, these effects depended on a variety of contextual factors.


Copyright © the Authors 2020.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). This license permits copying and redistributing the work in any medium or format for noncommercial use provided the orginal authors and source are credited and a link to the license is included in attribution. No derivative works are permitted under this license.

Data Availability

Article states: All sufficient statistics are included in the manuscript in Table 4, and individual level data are available from the first author to qualified researchers upon request. The study materials other than questionnaires are available at Data analyses are described in detail on pp. 19–20.

Original Publication Citation

Cromley, J., Perez, T., Kaplan, A., Dai, T., Mara, K., & Balsai, M. J. (2020). Combined cognitive motivational modules delivered via an LMS increase undergraduate biology grades. Technology, Mind, and Behavior, 1(2).


0000-0002-2008-2555 (Perez)