Outcomes of Using an Infinitely Explorable Online Learning System
A next generation online learning system has been developed at Merrimack College with the goal of revolutionizing online engineering education by “understanding a subject” rather than simply delivering content. The software delivers content in an interactive, three-dimensional environment. When presented with a problem, student input is not constrained in format or to only the final solution. Students have the ability to enter equations, diagrams, graphs, or text related to any portion of the problem including the solution, intermediate steps, or even extraneous aspects of the problem. These entries are evaluated by the software and feedback is provided regarding the correctness of the entry in the context of the presented problem. This grants the student freedom to explore the problem and receive instantaneous feedback as though they were interacting with the instructor in real-time. A number of studies have found that students provided with immediate feedback when working problems are more actively engaged in the learning process and demonstrate greater retention of the information3,4,5. This feedback can take the form of either standard correct/incorrect responses or an answer-until-correct approach. However, some evidence suggests that the answer-until-correct approach has a more significant impact on information retention6. Further, the use of immediate feedback in the setting of the online educational software allows the student to experience a learning environment more consistent with that of individual instruction while not requiring the direct input of the instructor.
In this presentation, results of a pilot study on the effectiveness of this new online learning system will be presented. The specific aims of this study include:
1) Test the effectiveness of using this software in enhancing learning in engineering courses.
2) Evaluate the underlying mechanisms used in the software (active learning, immediate feedback, and an interactive three-dimensional environment).
3) Study the usage scenarios when students are allowed to use the software with little instruction.