Tools for Digital Learning

Three Tales of Tools for Digital Learning


Earlier this month, Digital Learning Scientists and Fellows Elizabeth Huttner-Loan, Jolyon Bloomfield, Jennifer French, and Martin Segado gave an xTalk outlining three innovative digital tools used in MITx MOOCs. Here’s what you missed in this xTalk…

The Education Arcade edX Forums (Elizabeth Huttner-Loan)

MIT's Scheller Teacher Education Program provides four MOOCs as part of their Educational Technology Program XSeries, 11.132x, 125x, 127x, and 133x, all of which use the computer supported collaborative learning approach. Part of this approach includes peer feedback and discussion on EdTechX Forums.

Participants submit their work on the Forums. Professors do not grade student work but instead peers provide feedback. Although instructors give prompts to facilitate discussion, the majority of the forum responses are either helpful/constructive or in the form of comments/thoughts. There is an understanding among participants that the Forums are the only places where they will receive feedback, and only from each other.

Besides providing feedback, Forums also facilitate group interactions. These groups are either survey-based: created by instructors based on student commitment and availability, or affinity-based: entered voluntarily by individuals with similar interests. Affinity groups are considerably more popular and successful than survey-based ones. Their members have shared coursework and resources and even organized real-life meet-ups. The EdTechX forums have thus generated excellent sharing, support, and discussion.

Clickers/Experiments in MITx (Jolyon Bloomfield)

8.01 Physics I and 8.02 Physics II, two General Institute Requirement (GIR) classes with 500-750 registered students per semester, have benefitted immensely from the implementation of new technologies in the classroom. The change began with the use of MITx in the TEAL (Technology Enabled Active Learning) format. Then came “The Humble Clicker.”

Now, at the beginning of the semester, every 8.01/8.02 student registers their clicker on MITx, noting also their class section and location in the classroom. During class, instructors ask multiple choice clicker questions to get real-time feedback on class understanding and adjust their teaching accordingly. Students, in turn, benefit by thinking through new information.

On days when students perform experiments and clickers are not necessary, 8.01/8.02 instructors still have a way to track students’ progress. At the beginning of a lab, students log into their MITx accounts with their group-mates. They answer experiment questions in MITx together, providing answers within an accepted accuracy range, and receive immediate feedback. Instructors track the groups’ MITx progress from their own control panel, a sort of “birds eye view of the classroom.” Group progress is color-coded on the panel, updated in real time. Teachers get to see students’ progress and anticipate questions, as well as assist individual groups.

In this way, both students and instructors benefit greatly from the confluence of technologies. More developments in 8.01 and 8.02 are expected soon.

Sketch input and grading in MOOCs (Jennifer French and Martin Segado)

When Jennifer French and Martin Segado began working on the 18.01 Calculus I MOOC, they wanted to fulfill a fundamental objective — automated sketching. Research showed that multiple choice questions did not adequately measure higher cognitive engagement, and the grading of sketches on paper resulted in delayed feedback. So the team set out to create an MITx tool for the creation and automatic grading of sketches with immediate feedback.

Two seasons later, 871 unique learners submitted at least one graph of the total 8187 graphs submitted. 89% of them got the sketch correct by the final attempt (usually the second or third, though occasionally tenth and above). The students were either asked to sketch a given function, sketch the first and second derivatives of a given function, or sketch a function given the first and second derivatives. The online tool could grade the submitted sketches with respect to the critical points and asymptotes, labeled by the students, as well check for slopes and trends.

To help the students more in the future, the team is now working on automating grading scripts to create unlimited practice problems, as well as extracting data from incorrect submissions to promptly address students’ misconceptions. For those with mobility impairments, there will be accessible drawing tools. And for learners of Calculus outside MIT, the sketching tool is open source and available to try online.

Lectures slides and video of this xTalk are available to view.


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