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Hello and welcome to the penultimate Learning Science Weekly issue of 2020! This week, we’re focusing on the following questions:

  • Which instructor online discussion strategies are associated with learner performance?

  • What are some of the challenges in translating learning science research?

  • Is immersive virtual reality a useful tool for workplace learning?

Let’s Chat!

In a study that examined over 21,000 discussion posts from 72 different courses, researchers Lee and Recker sought to understand how specific online discussion strategies used by instructors impacted learners’ overall course performance. These strategies included elaborated feedback, encouragement, and providing correct answers, among others. Of the 14 strategies investigated, only four had a positive impact on learner outcomes:

  1. Open-ended prompting (like brainstorming questions)

  2. Grading discussion posts

  3. Focused discussions, which centered around one specific topic

  4. Elaborated feedback, which provided explanations or additional resources, like hints and extra study materials

In addition, “students in courses where instructors used open-ended discussion prompts and graded students' posts had higher average final course grades” (Lee & Recker, 2021).

Key Takeaway: In corporate learning and customer education, we consider chat functions and social learning platforms as nice features to have available in a learning management system, but we don’t often harness the power of discussion posts. Rich discussions can enhance learners’ understanding of a topic and should be guided by the instructor.

Read More ($): Lee, J.E. & Recker, M. (2021). The effects of instructors' use of online discussions strategies on student participation and performance in university online introductory mathematics courses. Computers & Education, 162.

Virtual Training

In a recent study that evaluated immersive virtual reality (IVR, aka head-mounted VR sets, like the Oculus) for workplace training, researchers discovered that learners who were given an opportunity to practice disassembling a machine via IVR had no difficulties in doing the same task in real life after the training. However, researchers noted that “a flawless and realistic representation of the machine or the associated objects is essential for them to be recognised and for action steps to be correctly transferred to reality” (Pletz & Zinn, 2020). And, on the subject of flaws, note that no control group was used in this study and the number of participants was small (n < 20).

Key Takeaway: Can head-mounted virtual reality devices be used to enhance workplace training, especially in potentially dangerous fields like mechanical and plant engineering? Yes, and it can be effective -- but its effectiveness in comparison to other methods was not investigated here.

Read More (open): Pletz, C. & Zinn, B. (2020). Evaluation of an immersive virtual learning environment for operator training in mechanical and plant engineering using video analysis. British Journal of Educational Technology, 51(6), 2159-2179.

Lost in Translation?

There are a number of people who translate learning science research into useful tips and advice for practitioners (editor’s note: myself included). In the first ever Learning Science Weekly podcast, we spoke to two of those people: Carl Crisostomo and Dr. Kripa Sundar. Listen in and find out what their biggest challenges are when it comes to providing practical advice on learning for the general public. You can find the episode on our website, as well as on Spotify and iTunes.

Doctoral Position Available

Are you a doctoral student looking for a meaningful project in customer education or corporate learning? Do you need data for your dissertation or other research project? We have a part-time contract position available through Learning Science Weekly and our sponsor, Intellum -- email Dr. Julia Huprich (julia at intellum dot com) to discuss this opportunity for next semester, which also includes a stipend.

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

Today we're featuring Afi, the foster dog of reader Alison. Afi is a Pyrenean Mountain Dog from Hungary who got stranded in Canada by COVID-19 when she couldn’t return home with her people. How sad, but she's lucky to have been rescued by Alison!