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Welcome everyone and thanks for being patient as we took some time off. We’re glad to be back!

This week we’re focusing on the following questions:

  • Does digital feedback enhance performance?
  • Can wearable devices improve training outcomes?
  • Can gamification backfire for organizations?
  • Is there a one-size fits all formula for learning?

Let’s get started!

Feedback is a Gift

Motivating employees with performance feedback can be tricky: it can be beneficial for both high performers and very low performers (Gill et al., 2019), but overall, the effects of feedback communication on the performance of the majority of employees are ambiguous at best. To help clarify the matter, researchers conducted a study to evaluate the effect of absolute (not relative) performance feedback -- specifically, in a digital format -- on employee performance using a group of truck drivers in Germany; their aim was to see if they could improve their fuel efficiency by encouraging “good driving.” (I barely passed my driving test, so don’t ask me what “good driving” means.) The result? Researchers found that by displaying a driver’s “eco score” on a device in the trucks, drivers were more likely to drive in a manner that was more fuel efficient.

Key Finding: Digitally monitoring employees and giving automated feedback on specific metrics can positively influence an employee’s performance -- all without supervisor involvement. (The question is: do you have those metrics? If you’re not building widgets or driving trucks, it can be hard to quantify employees’ performance.)

Read More (paywall): Hoffman, C. & Thommes, K. (2020). Can digital feedback increase employee performance and energy efficiency in firms? Evidence from a field experiment. J_ournal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 180_, 49-65.

What Do You See?

Are wearable computers (like Google Glasses) useful for training? In one study, researchers examined the effectiveness of foodservice training delivered via wearable computers. Participants were given instructions on making a specific type of sandwich either via video or via Google Glasses. The results showed the efficiency of using the wearable computer as an on‐the‐job training method, as those participants with Google Glasses required less than 50% of the time to view the training content and were more likely to accurately make the sandwich as compared to the video‐based group.

Key Finding: This study indicates that delivering training content via wearable technologies can be effective, but given the small sample size (n=30), I’d say hold off before investing in these devices.

Read More (open access): Clark, J., & Crandall, P. G. (2019). Educational Affordances of Google Glass as a New Instructional Platform for Foodservice Training. Management & Education, 13(1), 28-32.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

We’ve said this before, but the same gamification elements that work for one person might not work for the next. In fact, if gamification facilitates extrinsic motivation to perform work tasks through rewards that are not meaningful to employees, it may be detrimental to those employees' intrinsic motivation to work (Kim & Werbach, 2016). Using gamification to cater to the psychological needs that support intrinsic motivation, however, could be beneficial. In a study that examined how gamification influences these psychological needs (identified by Ryan & Deci as competence, relatedness, and autonomy), researchers surveyed employees and discovered that the gamification application that the participants used in the workplace did satisfy their psychological needs for intrinsic motivation.

The study also included some relevant suggestions for managers, including (p. 328):

  • When employees experience autonomy and competence needs satisfaction as a result of a gamification application, they exhibit higher levels of intrinsic motivation. This suggests that managers should develop gamification applications that utilize game design elements that support autonomy and competence needs satisfaction. (Wondering what those are? Check out Sailer et al., 2017.)
  • For managers seeking to implement gamification applications, the findings suggest that care must be taken to ensure that game design elements such as points and badges are interpreted as competency-supportive progress markers, rather than as means of reward and punishment. Specifically, managers should avoid linking game achievement with real-world consequences such as payments or social pressure.

The bottom line is this: when employees use workplace gamification applications they feel provide them with useful benefits, these gamification applications are more likely to fulfill their autonomy, competence, and relatedness needs.

Key Finding: Managers should ensure that gamification has clear benefits for the employee in addition to benefiting the organization. These authors even suggest co-creating the gamification app with employee input to ensure optimal results.

Read More (paywall): Mitchell, R., Schuster, L., & Jin, H.S. (2020). Gamification and the impact of extrinsic motivation on needs satisfaction: Making work fun? Journal of Business Research, 106, 323-330.

Practice Makes Perfect

In a TEDx talk shared with us by reader Daryl H., researcher Dr. Lara Boyd describes how neuroplasticity gives you the power to shape the brain you want. And, “nothing is more important than practice at helping you learn,” she says. But is there a one-size fits all formula for learning? You’ll have to watch to find out!

Upcoming Event: Applying Educational Research to Customer Education and Corporate Learning

Register today for a virtual session hosted by the Boston EdTech Meetup featuring LSW editor-in-chief Dr. Julia Huprich, who is currently writing this in the third person and will be sharing research findings related to microlearning and gamification. It’s next week, so she’d better get to work on those slides!

Details here:

Open Post-Doc Position

The good folks at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University are looking for a postdoctoral fellow to work on a new research project to create a platform for authoring and running adaptive online courses that personalize instruction according to a range of learner variables such as prior knowledge, knowledge growth, interests, self-regulation, and other factors.

Application Instructions: see

For inquiries, please contact Prof. Vincent Aleven,

Webinar: Empowering Students for Academic Success

The University of New Hampshire is hosting a day-long webinar this Friday, November 6 that features Mark McDaniel, Megan Sumeracki, and Norman Bier. The conference will feature presentations on teaching college and university students study strategies informed by the science of learning and instructing and supporting them to use those strategies as they prepare for course assessments. There will also be a presentation on how technology-enhanced learning innovations be developed and applied in ways that improve outcomes for all learners. This is a little outside of the scope of LSW -- we’re more focused on corporate learning and customer education -- but it may have benefits for this group as well.

Register for this free event here:

Nicholas Diana earned his doctorate in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University in 2020. He now works as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Colgate University, where he continues to research how educational systems can improve the productivity of civil discourse. He’s currently working on an educational game called “Persuasion Invasion” that teaches students how to identify the values that are at the root of political beliefs. “Our most exciting finding at the moment,” he says, “is that we can model the relationship between an individual player’s beliefs and the content they are reading, and based on that relationship, we can provide a debiasing intervention when the model predicts the player may be susceptible to bias.” Sounds very cool. Learn more about Nick and see a demo of his game at

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

Reader Judith R. has shared this picture with us of her pals Sofi (left) and Berry (right), seen here enjoying a nap (it looks like Berry is wearing Sofi’s tail as a wig!). Thanks for sharing, Judith!

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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