Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Positive Findings from Interactive Online Learning at Public Universities

Ithaka S+RA new study conducted at six universities gave a comparison between groups given an adaptive statistics-teaching program developed by the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon and groups given a traditionally-presented course with the same content. The publication can be accessed here: Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from Randomized Trials. (a brief as below) Download Report

In “Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from Randomized Trials,” we measure the effect on learning outcomes of a prototypical interactive learning online (ILO) statistics course by randomly assigning students on six public university campuses to take the course in a hybrid format (with machine-guided instruction accompanied by one hour of face-to-face instruction each week) or a traditional format (as it is usually offered by their campus, typically with 3-4 hours of face-to-face instruction each week).

We find that learning outcomes are essentially the same—that students in the hybrid format “pay no price” for this mode of instruction in terms of pass rates, final exam scores, and performance on a standardized assessment of statistical literacy. These zero-difference coefficients are precisely estimated. We also conduct speculative cost simulations and find that adopting hybrid models of instruction in large introductory courses have the potential to significantly reduce instructor compensation costs in the long run.

Gamasutra also highlighted the important findings from this study :

“In sum, our results indicate that hybrid-format students took about one-quarterless time to achieve essentially the same learning outcomes as traditional-format students.”

Even more encouraging for makers of educational games: the downfall of this approach is, as the paper freely admits, ‘a defect of the CMU prototype course is that it has no “addictive” or “Disney-like” appeal.’  In other words, it’s kind of boring.  This looks like an open door for educational game developers in the higher-ed space.

The result has a meaningful implication for game-based learning and personalized learning environment design.


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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