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Icon for: Neil Heffernan

NEIL HEFFERNAN

Worcester Polytechnic Institute, ASSISTments

ASSISTments and Sharing of work by Teachers

NSF Awards: 1724889

2018 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Adult learners

Professor Heffernan explains his vision of how crowd sourcing will change the educational landscape. Computer-enabled Crowdsourcing as an idea is a recent innovation;  Wikipedia, started in 2001, is built upon the crowdsourcing of information. The Mechanical Turk platform was started in 2009 to crowdsource human-required tasks. Another example of crowdsourcing, CAPTCHA (Von Ahn, Blum, Hooper & Langford, 2003), protects websites from bots while at the same time tagging images (a task with which humans excel while computers have difficulty). The premier place for academics to discuss and publish research on crowdsourcing, the Conference on Human Computation and Crowdsourcing (HCOMP), had its first independent conference in 2013. That conference is essentially comprised of works exploring machine learning (studying reinforcement learning issues) and design (studying how to design these systems).


Heffernan believes crowdsourcing is so powerful and yet underrepresented in the design of educational systems.  This video will explain this vision as well as show the small step our lab has taken that leverages the 50,000 students using the ASSISTments system already.

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Original Discussion from the 2018 STEM for All Video Showcase
  • Icon for: Daniel Damelin

    Daniel Damelin

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2018 | 03:08 p.m.

    What kind of supports does this new tool provide for researchers interested in using ASSISTments as part of a study? 

  • Icon for: Neil Heffernan

    Neil Heffernan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Director of Learning Sciences and Technologies
    May 16, 2018 | 02:12 p.m.

    Thanks for you interest, Daniel! I think you'll find our ASSISTments Research Testbed site is helpful: http://www.assistmentstestbed.org/

  • Icon for: Daniel Damelin

    Daniel Damelin

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2018 | 12:22 a.m.

    Thanks. That was very helpful.

  • May 15, 2018 | 08:48 a.m.

    Hi Neil, 

      This piece that supports beyond the classroom sounds like a neat extension to what we show in our video (http://stemforall2018.videohall.com/map/1321)&n... that also was developed at WPI.  Once students are set with 1-to-1 computers that are allowed and expected to be used beyond the school day the tool seems critical to offer them.  Also the idea of internal publishing and use of a "commons" idea is a step we are watching for to evolve for teachers and researchers in a Community of Practice structure.  Thanks for sharing..and how do we prepare to be more involved?

  • Icon for: Neil Heffernan

    Neil Heffernan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Director of Learning Sciences and Technologies
    May 17, 2018 | 08:44 a.m.
    When ASSISTments is used for homework it is definitely a great extension to any exciting things that are done in the classroom. Teachers find that when homework and homework review are done with ASSISTments it becomes much more efficient, saving time for other activities. If your students are 1:1 in class ASSISTments can also be used for classwork.     ASSISTments is a free public service of Worcester Polytechnic Institute so you can get involved right now.  Teachers from any subject can use ASSISTments. There is content created for many teachers to get started. Math teachers have a large quantity of existing content, teachers from other subjects usually end up building their own content.  Explore the existing content, check out how to build your own content and take a look at some great ways to get started. Then apply for a teacher account.    Since you are located near Worcester think about attending our users conference.   Neil
  • Icon for: Carrie Willis

    Carrie Willis

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2018 | 09:12 p.m.

    Sounds like a great idea. How do teachers utilize the service? Is it a paid subscription? Have you seen great results from classrooms that have used it? 

  • Icon for: Neil Heffernan

    Neil Heffernan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Director of Learning Sciences and Technologies
    May 17, 2018 | 02:56 p.m.

    ASSISTments is a tool teachers use for formative assessment (like homework) and is a great way to cultivate personalized learning for students. Here are some ways in which teachers use ASSISTments. It is a free public service so there is no paid subscription. We have seen incredible results so far. From our study conducted in Maine we saw 75% of learning increased. You can check our recent feature in the US News and World Report to read more about this. I invite you to also explore for yourself by creating an account.

  • Icon for: Jim Hammerman

    Jim Hammerman

    Facilitator
    May 17, 2018 | 05:38 p.m.

    I read your author blurb, but I don't understand how the idea of crowd sourcing is playing out in the Assistments system that you describe in the video. Can you explain? Is it needed to give feedback for answers that are more complex than multiple choice options? If not, how do you score such responses?

  • Icon for: Neil Heffernan

    Neil Heffernan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Director of Learning Sciences and Technologies
    May 18, 2018 | 02:31 p.m.

    Jim,

    We have many answer types in ASSISTments but they mainly fall into three categories.  1) Multiple choice and choose all that apply, 2) fill in that is graded by the system and 3) open response that is not graded by the system.  We are currently crowdsourcing support for students who can not get the correct fill in answer. We call this TeacherASSIST (see a video about it here).  Teachers can easily create hints or explanations to support struggling students, then if a teacher is designated a expert we share their support with all users. We have other systems for teachers to grade open response questions (see more about that here)  but as of yet have not incorporated crowdsourced feedback for that, not for lack of ideas on how to do it, we have just not gotten there yet.    Neil
  • Icon for: James Diamond

    James Diamond

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2018 | 12:00 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing your work, Neil. Did the study that SRI did include the type of "explanation feedback" included in the Fyfe study? I'm curious what you mean when you say "we vastly improved student learning." What were the feedback conditions, and what was the content?

    Thanks again.

  • Icon for: Neil Heffernan

    Neil Heffernan

    Lead Presenter
    Professor and Director of Learning Sciences and Technologies
    May 18, 2018 | 02:31 p.m.
    James, Happy to help you understand the results and implementation of the SRI study, you can find details here. We developed a method where teachers could use any existing content they wanted, so both control and treatment just used whatever books they wanted. Teachers in the ASSISTments treatment group were able to adopt our feedback system without changing anything else  Because they were using their own books we did not have the capacity to create special feedback, like that found in the "Fyfe study".  Instead students were simply told they were right or wrong and if wrong they were able to try again or eventually give up.  Teachers were told in a simple item report how well each student did on each problem and given averages. The results of the study are outlined in detail on this page. In short SRI administered the TeraNova test to all 2,800 students (about half in control and half in treatment). The results fo the test showed that the use of ASSISTments caused 75% more learning than in a typical year. It was also shown that using ASSISTments for homework had a greater impact for students with low prior achievement.    On the feedback note one teacher in Maine did create hints for every problem in his book. We had no idea a teacher would do this. We were inspired by him to create TeacherASSIST a system that allows teachers to more easily create feedback for the problems they create or select. Better yet if they are a verified expert teacher anyone can see their feedback. More on that here.    Neil
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