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Failure can be a scary word. When we fail at something, we often question our self-worth, our skills, and our goals. But is there a way that “failing” can actually tell us something different about ourselves? Is there a way, rather than be struck down by failure, we can be motivated and even guided by it?

There would be no reason to take a course if you already knew everything about that subject. That said, it can be hard to determine where your gaps in knowledge might fall. This is where pretesting comes in.

Many MindEdge learning resources start with a pretest.

Pretesting is an important part of the learning process. Knowing where students stand in relationship to course material, from the get-go, helps guide their learning. Taking a pretest at the beginning of a course, and at the beginning of each learning module or assignment, can help students in understanding their starting place. They can see which areas need extra attention as they work through the course material. In essence, a pretest guides their learning.

Research by Nate Kornell, Matthew Hays, and Robert Bjork at UCLA has shown that “People remember things better, longer, if they are given very challenging tests on the material, tests at which they are bound to fail.” Their research further found that “if students make an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve information before receiving an answer, they remember the information better than in a control condition in which they simply study the information. Trying and failing to retrieve the answer is actually helpful to learning. It’s an idea that has obvious applications for education, but could be useful for anyone who is trying to learn new material of any kind.” (Source: Henry L. Roediger and Bridgid Finn, Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn,”Scientific American, October 20, 2009)

By initially “failing,” students can see exactly where they need to grow. Benedict Carey, a science reporter for The New York Times who has written a book on learning, puts it well: “We fail, but we fail forward.”

Copyright © 2014 MindEdge, Inc.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-web-seo-analytics-concept-flat-design-modern-vector-illustration-website-data-analysis-using-modern-electronic-mobile-image35512084EDUCAUSE’s Next Generation Learning Challenges initiative defines learning analytics as “the use of data and models to predict student progress and performance, and the ability to act on that information.” Many institutions of higher education are focusing on the data that is now available from online education.

MindEdge collects significant amounts of “click-by-click” student data from its learning resources and simulations. When it comes to employing this data as part of MindEdge’s continuous improvement approach to online learning resources, we consider the Four P’s. They are:

  • Principles
  • Progress
  • Performance
  • Pivot Points

The principles involved are simple: first, to consider the data in context; second, to analyze the data without preconceptions; and finally, to revise or adjust the learning resource based on those insights garnered from the analysis and then carefully assess the impact, positive or negative, of those changes.

We look first at student progress. How smoothly are students proceeding through the learning resource? What do completion rates look like? Are there modules or assignments where students spend longer periods of time? How does the rate of progress compare with the past? Are assignments being completed on time?

The next point of focus is performance. How are students doing on quizzes or tests? How does their performance compare with the past? Are students completing graded assignments?

Then we analyze the data looking for pivot points. Where do students encounter difficulty? Are there specific places in the learning resource where progress stalls or performance falters? Are there key trends apparent? What revisions or adjustments may be helpful at these pivot points?

We see learning analytics as a way to help in:

  • Intervening when students encounter barriers or struggle through alerting instructors to take action;
  • Personalizing the learning resource by developing adaptive learning based on the data analysis;
  • Predicting student outcomes based on past performance data;
  • Revising the learning resource to provide additional scaffolding where appropriate.

MindEdge has developed an extensive data dashboard to allow real-time monitoring of student progress and performance. Allowing instructors to review this data, and empowering them to act on it when necessary, is a key step in the process of improving student outcomes.

One sometimes overlooked aspect of learning analytics is the role of the student in monitoring their own progress and performance and “self-correcting” when they fall behind. MindEdge seeks to offer students access to this data in an easy-to-read and understand format within the learning resource—especially within adaptive learning segments—so that they feel in control of their own “learning destiny.”

Copyright © 2014 MindEdge, Inc.

Online narrative learning is a powerful tool to engage learners through case studies, stories, and simulations.


As educator Marsha Rossiter (in “Narrative and Stories in Adult Teaching and Learning” in ERIC DIGEST) has noted: “Narrative is deeply appealing and richly satisfying to the human soul, with an allure that transcends cultures, centuries, ideologies, and academic disciplines.”

When properly designed and executed, narrative learning can help improve comprehension and mastery of concepts; it can also challenge learners to analyze, synthesize, and make decisions—the sorts of more complex cognition that tests the ability of learners to apply what they have learned.

Narrative learning taps into the power of storytelling. Storytelling has deep evolutionary roots. Humans are wired to learn from stories. We fashion meaning from them, and they help lend order to our world.

We connect naturally with narrative structure and its sequential resolution of conflict. Some students may be more inclined to pay attention, make connections, and retain information presented in the form of a story. Stories, simulations, and case studies can make it clear to an adult learner just how the information they are being taught can be applied in real world circumstances.

Narrative can become a powerful learning tool in the classroom and beyond, bringing abstract concepts to life. Stories provide our minds with vivid pictures—ones that we are more likely to remember.

Narrative techniques are at the forefront of today’s innovation in adult learning—case studies, interactive scenarios, games, graphic nonfiction stories, and simulation. The narrative structure appeals to learners who, for example, can compare the arc of a brief business mini-case with what they have experienced in the workplace.

Instructional designer Chris Jennings (in “Speaking Your Mind: Using elements of narrative storytelling in eLearning” in eLearn Magazine) has argued: “The best stories show, rather than tell. They resonate emotionally with readers, offering a sense of urgency, relief, accomplishment. Because of their inherent similarities, narrative stories can be great for situated learning by using real-world simulations that students can act out or practice in context.”

Case studies, for example, are valuable because they encourage learners to apply their knowledge and actively engage in the learning process. Case studies are valuable for building problem-solving skills, can offer stimulating collaborative assignments, and can be particularly useful in illustrating how to apply and practice new concepts.

Designing narrative learning starts with an understanding of the basics of storytelling—of understanding the arc of a story and how to employ conflict and resolution to engage learners. Narrative learning can be a valuable and powerful addition to online courses and resources.

Copyright © 2014 MindEdge, Inc.

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