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Videos, Social Cues, and Learner Persistence

Thanks to Beth D. for inspiring us to look at learner persistence. In a paper included in the proceedings for the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2020, researchers investigated whether social cues in the form of course “welcome videos” could influence women to invest more effort in a computer science course. Would a welcome video featuring a female instructor help female students feel more comfortable about computer science, thus encouraging them to be more persistent in the course? The answer, interestingly enough, was a resounding no. With a robust n (53,922), these researchers found that “presenting a male and female instructor together [in the welcome video] was an effective strategy for retaining women in the course” (Kizilcec et al., 2020).

Key Takeaway: Social cues are important, and based on the current evidence, the researchers recommend having both a male and female instructor welcome students to a course. This begs the question -- what if there’s only one instructor?

Read More (paywall): Kizilcec, R.F., Saltarelli, A., Bonfert-Taylor, P., Goudzwaard, M., Hamonic, E., & Sharrock, R. (2020). Welcome to the course: Early social cues influence women’s persistence in computer science. CHI '20: Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. April 2020, 1–13.

A Tip for Researchers!

Frustrated by the paywall? We get it. Potential solutions: Ask your local public librarian for access to these journals, or request the articles through your local library’s InterLibrary Loan service, “which is essential for the democratization of research” (see: InterLibrary Loan will change your life).

Universal Design for Learning

Thanks to Jan S. for the suggestion to take a look at Universal Design for Learning (or UDL), which “focuses on the design of flexible curricula, with diverse materials and means to provide everyone with learning” (Nieves, Moya, & Soldado, 2019). The UDL guidelines “offer a set of concrete suggestions that can be applied to any discipline or domain to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities” by providing multiple means of engagement, representation, action, and expression. The goal? Expert learners who are purposeful, motivated, resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, and goal-directed. Sounds great, but does the science back it up? CAST, the organization responsible for the development of UDL, says that it’s based on sound research evidence. We’re going to keep digging into this one. In the meantime, let’s take a look at a study that applied the UDL principles.


In 2019, a group of researchers applied UDL principles to a course teaching UDL principles. So meta. The results of their pilot study indicated that learners who took the course found it to be fully accessible; the majority of participants agreed that they had an opportunity to activate prior knowledge, to achieve the objectives of the course, and to fulfill their learning goals (p. 42). With a completion rate of 27% (as opposed to the average MOOC completion rate of 5-10%), one could say this course was a success.

Key Takeaway: Instructional designers have a responsibility to design inclusive learning and consider accessible resources, and UDL principles provide guidelines for doing that.

Read More (open access): Nieves, L.H., Moya, E.C., & Soldado, R.M. (2019). A MOOC on universal design for learning based on the UDL paradigm. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 35(6), 30-47.

Customer Education: A Paradox

We haven’t covered anything customer ed-related for a while, so we wanted to share with you one of our favorite articles. This one, from way back in 2017, explored the customer education paradox, which essentially states that “many firms are hesitant to invest in customer education efforts for fear that it will equip customers with the skills to shop around and possibly switch providers,” (Bell, Auh, & Eisingerich, 2017, p. 306). So, does customer education increase loyalty? This article posits that the specificity of customer expertise is critical; “educating customers for firm-specific expertise leads to increased loyalty, while building market-related expertise may decrease customer loyalty” (ibid., p. 306).

Key Takeaway: While the results are nuanced (of course), one key finding of this research is that “loyalty can be enhanced when education is directed at building firm-specific expertise” (p. 317).

Read More (paywall): Bell, S.J., Auh, S., & Eisingerich, A.B. (2017). Unraveling the customer education paradox: When, and how, should firms educate their customers? Journal of Service Research, 20(3).

Failure to Disrupt: A Book Club

MIT professor Dr. Justin Reich recently published “Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education” and has started a virtual book club. Join him, George Siemens, and Elizabeth Losh for a discussion related to MOOCs on Monday, September 28 at 3 pm ET:

April Holton is a fourth year doctoral student at Arizona State University and will defend her dissertation in Spring 2021. She is interested in research on teachers' change in pedagogical practices in K-8 science, specifically with student argumentation and science talk.

She works with her advisor Bryan Henderson and a team at UC Berkeley on an NSF-funded project in which they developed a digital tool called DiALoG (Diagnosing Argumentation Levels of Groups) that supports teachers with observing and formatively assessing student oral argumentation. The project listed on her site is an extension of the DiALoG project. She is working on developing a measure of teacher professional vision of argumentation to investigate the effects/mediation of the DiALoG tool on teachers' professional vision of argumentation.

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

We're back with another adorable pet -- this time, it's the dreamy Francesca Rose, sent in by reader Marina G. Thanks for sharing!

Do you have a cute pet? Send us your pet pics at

Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send us your cute pet pics -- you’re helping us all learn better!

The LSW Crew

Learning Science Weekly is edited by Julia Huprich, Ph.D. Our head of growth and community is Julieta Cygiel.

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