Recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation posted a new resource, at coursewarechallenge.org with findings from their last round of NGCC grant funding. Acrobatiq was part of that round, and I uncovered a quote from myself within the site. I thought I would expand on it a bit. The quote:
“If students don’t provide enough data in the form of practice, then courseware providers can write an adaptive experience, but it won’t actually adapt to the students. That’s a trickier thing you can’t necessarily expect instructors to just know.”
Bill Jerome, Senior Product Manager at Acrobatiq
To expand a little bit:
In any adaptive learning platform (assuming most generally accepted definitions, where a platform adapts instruction without intervention from instructors), data is required. Within knowing what a student knows, there is no immediate basis to adapt their instruction. That would be like asking a human tutor to “adapt instruction” to a student without letting them ask the student any questions. So we know we need at least one question. Not many people would argue that, even for a human tutor, one question is likely not enough to really know what a student knows or doesn’t know, at least when considering most questions we deliver online (multiple choice, maybe an entered word). So now we have made the case the answer is “at least a couple”. Practically speaking, you need a number of questions related to a single learning objective to really understand where a student is, especially if those questions allow gaming strategies or luck such as multiple choice questions.
All of which I think makes sense when talked through like above, but it is not necessarily obvious to an instructor writing content. And what is the right number? That gets even more complicated because it depends on things such as the difficulty of the question, the level of Bloom’s you are trying to assess, the “gambility” of the item, etc..
This issue is what I was trying to convey in that short quote.
I was happy to speak with Mark Lieberman from Inside Higher Ed a couple of weeks ago about the current state (more or less) of learning engineering in the professional world. The final product of his work is here: Learning Engineers Inch Toward the Spotlight. Aside from the quotes attributed to me, we spoke about what I saw as important to the role of someone with a title of “Learning Engineer.” In different jobs I have held, I have worked with teams of people with that very title. Wherever the contents of the article came from I was happy to see a few things:
- The bullet points around what it means to be a learning engineer are focused on data and iterative improvement
- Carnegie Mellon being well represented, as it should be
If we’re all lifting the field of education to take advantage of what we can learn to improve student learning, then we’re all rowing the same way and that’s great. I was only a bit disappointed to see a reaction to the article from a prominent individual such as this:
If you use the word "learning engineer" in a serious, rather than sarcastic, way, Satan purees a puppy. https://t.co/FVZvq3WDXP
— George Siemens (@gsiemens) September 27, 2018
I respect Dr. Siemens very much, and I’ve even been on a panel with him. I’m not sure where this take comes from exactly, but I cannot describe the statement as collaborative or advancing of ideas.
I hope going forward, we can all be more constructive than that, and work together to apply what research tells us about student learning, as a team. Debate is helpful. It makes us think hard about what we’re trying to achieve. Learning Engineering is coming to the spotlight.
Sometimes you get a gift. Sometimes you get a hand-made gift. Sometimes you turn 40… Sometimes… well anyway, look at this amazing gift I received from my friend Eric. Is it… a checkers game?
Yes. Is it a chess set?
Yes, but there’s too many pieces… what are they? And these extra tiles that run down the side? Oh.. It’s Stealth Chess!
But why is the box so large, with all these inserts? If you’re a Terry Pratchett fan you already know where this is going…
Not to get too proud… but yeah, I love it. You can come play! But this set is not for borrowing.