1EdTech Highlights Successes in Using Badges, VR, and Analytics to Enhance the Learner Experience

Mary Gwozdz,
Software Engineer

The 1EdTech Digital Curriculum and App Innovation Summit spotlighted several exciting implementations of standards bringing the latest and greatest that technology has to offer for enhancing the learning experience.

Bringing the Career Narrative into Traditional Curriculum Using Skills Alignment & Badges
The University of Phoenix shared their process of converting their traditional curricula and courses into curricula and courses aligned to skills and badges. In doing this, the University of Phoenix was able to easily demonstrate the value of their program to students as it correlated much more strongly to job postings.

Their process began with gathering a catalog of skills by reviewing data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other external benchmarks, as well as working with faculty, deans, and business partners to determine what students needed to learn in their courses. They then manually generated a curriculum map that aligns these skills to traditional curriculum credit hours for each course offered. In this manual process, it was determined that in the vast majority of courses, one credit hour aligned well with one skill and one corresponding assessment. 

Next, they worked with faculty and instructional designers to develop Authentic Assessments in which the students would provide a deliverable to prove that they had learned the skill in the way that their career or further education would require. Finally, they would release the new curriculum and course materials to students and gather data and feedback on the results.

To highlight the value of this to students, they developed two products with learner experience in mind: the Skills Dashboard and Skills Aligned Badges. In the Skills Dashboard, students could see all of the skills that make up their courses written in language corresponding to job postings, showing how the course fits into the career narrative. Skills Aligned Badges were also generated as part of this effort, with one badge often corresponding to about two courses and with badges often being endorsed by the businesses and organizations seeking to employ people with the corresponding skills.

Internally, the university tracks and analyzes the results of these efforts using business intelligence dashboards created in Power BI. This enables them to answer questions for instructional designers such as how students are progressing in their courses and which assignments students find most challenging, as well as questions regarding retention rates and demographics. The feedback from students, faculty, and these tools are all taken into consideration in the next evolution of the cycle.

Increasing Student Engagement and Education Access Using VR
The University of Maryland shared their pilot program for offering courses in VR within the Metaverse. The success of this pilot was measured by quantifying student engagement and providing education access to underserved communities. Most notably, they developed a VR experience of a crime scene for one of their criminology classes, but also found ways to enhance over a dozen liberal arts classes, including battle reenactments for history classes, cadavers for medical training, and appropriate story-telling settings for literature courses. 

The university’s first-year pilot was very successful, with students and instructors reporting higher engagement and satisfaction than in traditional courses. Additionally, it also successfully increased education access for students with conditions such as agoraphobia and PTSD, enabling them to participate where they otherwise might not have been able to. 

At the same time, this pilot raised additional questions and concerns: 

  • How can VR headsets be provided to students in a cost-effective manner? 
  • How do courses of this nature map to educational standards and traditional documentation? 
  • Could the same benefits be achieved in a 2D experience without VR headsets? 
  • How can institutions cost-effectively get access to VR software that lends itself easily to course building? 
  • How do biases towards certain avatar appearances have an impact? 
  • Are VR headsets on home wifi networks secure? How can VR be integrated into LMSs and SISs?

Drastically Increasing Student Knowledge Retention Using Analytics
The University of Maryland also shared how one of their chemistry professors was able to morph part of the school’s pandemic solution into an experiment that nearly doubled the number of A’s students received in the class.

In part of the university’s pandemic response, they asked faculty to generate extremely large test banks so that every student in the class would receive a completely different exam, largely reducing the ability for students to cheat. Once this test bank was in place, a chemistry professor opted to use her test bank in the Realizeit Adaptive Learning Platform to offer students a way to do Spaced Practice and time-on-task studying, as inspired by German psychologist Herman Ebbinghaus who did experiments on how long it would take him to forget information.

Using analytics to track student engagement through studying in Realizeit, they found that students’ final grades could be predicted with 82% accuracy and that the number of A’s received in the class doubled compared to students who did not use this method. Furthermore, this chemistry professor was interested in whether this adjustment allowed her students to be better prepared going into courses for which general chemistry was a prerequisite, such as organic chemistry. Indeed, using analytics, she found that 90% of students who did Spaced Practice in her class also passed organic chemistry. Finally, she was interested in finding out if students were able to replicate the Spaced Practice process on their own in their other classes, but unfortunately, without an instructor to develop the extensive test bank beforehand, they were unable to do so.

The university had some takeaways and questions from this experiment:

  • How can we get students to predict what questions and answers might be on the exams so that they can develop the test banks themselves?
  • How can we help faculty transition from being lecturers to being creators of learning environments?
  • How can we identify students who are struggling with Spaced Practice and intervene to help them?
  • How can we get our vendors to use the Caliper standard so that our analytics data can be interoperable between departments, allowing for more analytics to be done and for the creation of a unified dashboard?

Conclusion
At the 1EdTech Digital Curriculum and App Innovation Summit, The University of Phoenix and the University of Maryland presented a few very exciting examples of how they were able to use technology to greatly improve learner experience using badging, VR, and learning analytics. Tell us on Linkedin about the impact your business or institution is making in the realm of learner experience! If you’d like to discuss with us where you need help realizing your vision for enhancing the learning experience, please contact us.

Mary Gwozdz

Mary Gwozdz

Software Engineer
Mary Gwozdz is a Software Engineer who has been with Unicon since 2017. While at Unicon, Ms. Gwozdz has impacted numerous learners by designing and developing software solutions for the California Community Colleges (CCC) Applications, Cisco Networking Academy, Lumen Learning, and others as well as assisting with SIS integrations to Instructure products such as Canvas. Ms. Gwozdz specializes in the LTI (Learning Tool Interoperability) specification from 1EdTech and is also knowledgeable in AWS architecture, Spring Boot REST web services, and other 1EdTech specifications such as Common Cartridge and OneRoster.
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