Education & Training : Digital courses


Physics ‘Office Hours’ educational learning platform

A physics education researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has designed a novel and interactive app-based study aid platform for students in STEM disciplines. The platform’s interface is built around education research into how students conceptualize problems they do not understand. It is a novel tool to help students see why they are struggling with a particular problem, and what might help them solve it, rather than solving the problem for them. The team’s first working prototype, the Physics Office Hours app, has been designed for use in introductory-level college physics. The app is designed to mimic a scenario students might face during ‘office hours’ with a professor: Rather than offering an answer, the instructor guides the students through problems via a series of questions. A user-friendly online interface allows app content to be easily updated and changed over time and as more problem sets become available. In addition, the app architecture can easily be adapted to problem sets in other STEM disciplines and therefore serves as a platform technology.

Improving Students’ Retention by Attuning Computerized Teachers to Brain Activity

UW–Madison researchers have developed a method to trigger attention-promoting behaviors presented by robotic, virtual or video-based instruction, using brain-wave measurements indicating drops in user engagement.

User attentiveness is determined by well-accepted EEG measurement of the brain’s electrical activity, like that provided by existing EEG technology. The new system produces an ‘engagement threshold’ to identify periods of declining user attention in real time and signal some modification of the lesson. This modification could take the form of increased audio signals, the use of more pictures, requests for student input or eye and limb movements by robotic instructors. In evaluating student responsiveness to a lesson, this method provides a more robust alternative to other computer-based educational (CBE) tools that gauge effectiveness solely by users’ explicit input or post-hoc comprehension.

Interactive Degree Planner

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater and University of Wisconsin – Madison and a Wisconsin based startup company have developed the Interactive Degree Planner, a web-based digital tool that conveniently calculates a multiyear course plan that satisfies all program and degree requirements in the shortest possible time to graduation. The Planner considers courses already completed by a student and then creates a comprehensive degree plan that will allow for completion of all degree requirements. Among other variables, the optimization software considers when courses are offered along with prerequisites needed for admittance to courses and determines a semester by semester schedule for the remaining courses needed to achieve the degree . This interactive tool will facilitate efficient and cost-effective degree plans as well as serve as a valuable aid for student advising.