Fine-tuning online education (Harvard Gazette)

Our friends at Harvard are beginning to share some of what they are learning from HarvardX:

Andrew Ho, research director of HarvardX and an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), spoke with the Gazette about a recent study that found that interspersing online lectures with short tests improved student performance. The practice cut student mind-wandering by half, tripled the rate of note-taking, and improved overall retention of the material, according to the research, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

GAZETTE: In describing the study, senior author Daniel Schacter, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Psychology, said there is “shockingly little” hard scientific data on how students learn online — how useful do you see this new study as being?

HO: Of course it’s incredibly important. Dan is a member of our HarvardX Research Committee, which is charged with coordinating and supporting the research mission of HarvardX, and research like this is one reason he’s on that committee, and one of the many ways he’s contributed to our discussions thus far.

It’s true that there are fewer scientific research findings in this field than one would expect, but that is rapidly changing, and it’s frankly our mission to change it. One of the challenges to this type of research is that it can be difficult to obtain large sample sizes, but the platform we have is beginning to change that. We are able to capture every mouse click with HarvardX, and that is an incredibly rich resource for research. It’s allowing us to address a number of questions that we hadn’t been able to address in the past, and Dan’s paper is an example of the type of work we want to facilitate. Read more.

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