By Avery Closser & David Purpura
We are excited to join the Digital Learning Platforms Network (SEERNet) to contribute to conversations with multiple stakeholders (including educational technology developers, funders, and other researchers) surrounding the capacities, directions, and best practices for conducting education research in digital learning platforms. We are eager to help define the goals and actions necessary for advancing this area of educational research.
More immediately, our project can serve as an example within and beyond the SEERNet Network of how to leverage ASSISTments for efficient, rigorous, low-cost research. Further, since perceptual scaffolding is an adaptable, low-cost form of instructional support that can be implemented in multiple platforms, we are eager to discuss research extensions that may be conducted with other digital learning platforms in the Network to consider how this approach may be adapted and leveraged across digital contexts to support learning.
We chose to work with ASSISTments because their users, system capacities, and values are well-aligned with our project. We are focusing on elementary math education and using worked examples, practice problems, and a pre-test/post-test design. This sample population and study design work well with ASSISTments’ userbase that originated around middle school math content and the design of the intelligent tutoring system to support online problem solving. More broadly, our goals are to create open-access digital materials for students and teachers and ASSISTments is committed to being free for teachers and students to use. ASSISTments will host the problem sets from each experiment in our project that yield the highest performance and learning outcomes. In this way, an important project outcome will be immediately available material on ASSISTments that will be openly available for teachers and students to use.
Making Waves in Education Research
Before we joined the Network, Members of SEERNet met in April 2023 to discuss new and better ways of doing education and shared their reflections in Making Waves: Reflections on SEERNet’s Progress Towards Enabling Next Generation of Education Research. They landed on three “waves” to mark significant advances in their work. First, they needed to lay the foundation for digital learning platforms to support education research. Second, they needed to welcome researchers and support initial research on the platforms. Finally, the third wave is “Expanding Towards Broader Aspirations.” As the first research project to join the Network, we are excited to contribute to the second wave by expanding the Network’s community to include external researchers, testing and defining what types of research are feasible with digital learning platforms, and by creating resources to support more external researchers as they join SEERNet. Beyond these contributions, we also hope to contribute towards the third wave by considering how our project’s scope and design could further conversations about creating “Better Engineering” for educational technologies that leverage A/B testing to efficiently improve instructional resources for better learning outcomes.
We are grateful to our consultants (Dr. Connor O’Rear at Notre Dame, Dr. Anthony Botelho at the University of Florida, and Tamisha Thompson at Worcester Polytechnic Institute), advisory board members (Dr. Martha Alibali at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Candace Walkington at Southern Methodist University, Dr. Erin Ottmar at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Dr. Walter Leite at the University of Florida), and research assistant (Katie Allen, Purdue University) for sharing their insights, skills, and excitement about this project and the Network!