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Learning Research

Next, we critically assess and synthesize research in the learning sciences to guide the solution design. These “design principles” focus on motivation, cognition, and pedagogy.

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    • We rigorously assess and synthesize education research and cognitive science into principles that guide every design decision

      ID Principle Analytics Type Confidence Citations
      2 Analytics naturally leverage or can be implemented in support of a variety of learning theories. Examples include metacognition, self-regulated learning, project-based learning, collaborative learning, and constructivism. Specific processes supported include reflection, self-monitoring, self-judgement, and study strategies. Both HIGH 18
      4 Select data that directly align to the learning design. For instance, tracked data should support intended goals and behaviors. Dashboards HIGH 14
      5 Initial data displays should be simple and present an overview of the data. At the user's request, more detailed data points or original source artifacts may be explored. Dashboards MED 11
      7 Analytics (including dashboards and prompts) and interventions can be used in combination to identify at-risk learners, then improve their performance over time. Both MED 10
      8 Just-in-time prompts can support the reflection, goal setting / evaluation, and behavior adjustment / intervention processes. Prompts MED 9
      9 Prompts may be provided in real time. For instance, an automated notification may be sent to a learner the moment an achievement is earned. Prompts MED 8
      12 Align the reporting of analytics to the timescale of events in the learning design. For example, achievements may be made in real time, discussions may occur weekly, or exams may occur quarterly. Data should be reported in ways that is consistent with the real-world activity it is based upon. Dashboards MED 9
      13 Prompting self-regulation strategies (e.g. organize, monitor, plan) and remedial strategies can lead to improved performance and strategy use. Prompts MED 5
      15 Ensure learners are aware of and understand the pedagogical intentions behind the design and use of analytics. Both MED 8
      16 Prompts may be scheduled to align with the design of the learning experience. For instance, an automated activity summary may be sent to learners each week in a course that discusses a new topic every week. Prompts MED 7
      17 People prefer visual representations as compared to text-based representations in dashboards. For example, graphs and charts are prefered over tables and text. Dashboards MED 7
      20 When using analytics, note that there is a risk that stakeholders will perform only according to what is measured and conveyed, which is unlikely to fully represent ideal behavior in the context. Both MED 9

      We use the same research to construct a learning model that provides the blueprint for a product design


      The design principles and models are critiqued by experts

      Dr. Christopher Dede

      Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies, Harvard

      - new types of educational systems for the 21st Century, large-scale educational improvement initiatives


      Dr. Mark McDaniel

      Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Center for Integrative Research on Cognition, Learning, and Education (CIRCLE), Washington University in St. Louis.

      - human learning and memory, with an emphasis on prospective memory, encoding and retrieval process


      Dr. Robert Atkinson

      Associate Professor in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering in the Ira A. Schools of Engineering and the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation in the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College, Arizona State University

      - personalized learning, social media, learner analytics, mobile learning, cognitive science, usability testing, human-computer interaction


      We use education research to identify qualities critical to a student’s success...


      ...and ethnographic research to build personas of real-life students who we design to help and then test against

    • The Learning Research Advisory Council

      The Council has five members (see below). Dr. Dede also sits on our Impact Research Advisory Council to ensure continuity.


      Dr. Robert Atkinson

      Dr. Robert Atkinson

      Associate Professor in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering in the Ira A. Schools of Engineering and the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation in the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College, Arizona State University

      Dr. Atkinson is an Associate Professor with a joint appointment in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering in the Ira A. Schools of Engineering and the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation in the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College. His research explores the intersection of cognitive science, informatics, instructional design, and educational technology. He earned in Applied Cognitive Science PhD degree from University of Wisconsin – Madison with a minor in statistics and research design. His scholarship involves the design of instructional material—including book- and computer-based learning environments—according to our understanding of human cognitive architecture and how to leverage its unique constraints and affordances. His current research focus involves the study of engagement and flow in games. His research appears in a variety of highly respected academic journals including Journal of Educational Psychology, Applied Cognitive Psychology, Learning and Instruction, Review of Educational Research, and Educational Psychologist. He currently serves on the editorial boards of five top-tier journals and is a standing member of the Institute of Education Sciences review panel.


      Dr. Christopher Dede

      Dr. Christopher Dede

      Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies, Technology Innovation, and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

      Dr. Dede’s research focuses on developing new types of educational systems to meet the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century. His work spans emerging technologies for learning, infusing technology into large-scale educational improvement initiatives, developing policies that support educational transformation, and providing leadership in educational innovation. He has conducted funded studies to develop and assess learning environments based on virtual worlds, augmented realities, transformed social interaction, and online teacher professional development. He is a leader in mobile learning initiatives and has developed a widely used Framework for scaling up educational innovations.


      Dr. Erin Dolan

      Dr. Erin Dolan

      Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Innovative Science Education at the University of Georgia

      Professor Erin Dolan is a Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Innovative Science Education at the University of Georgia. As a graduate student in Neuroscience at University of California San Francisco, she volunteered extensively in K-12 schools, which prompted her to pursue a career in biology education. She teaches introductory biology and biochemistry, and her research group studies scalable ways of engaging students in science research and mentoring of undergraduate researchers in the life sciences. In 2014-2016, she served as founding Executive Director of the Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Sciences (TIDES), the teaching innovation initiative in the College of Natural Sciences at University of Texas Austin. She has designed and led a wide range of professional development on active learning and mentoring, including intensive sessions for faculty to develop course-based undergraduate research experiences. She is principal investigator or co-investigator on more than $10 million in grants, including one for CUREnet, a network of people and programs integrating research experiences into undergraduate courses. She is also Editor-in-Chief of the leading biology education journal, CBE – Life Sciences Education.


      Dr. Mark McDaniel

      Dr. Mark McDaniel

      Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Center for Integrative Research on Cognition, Learning, and Education (CIRCLE), Washington University in St. Louis.

      Dr. McDaniel is a Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Center for Integrative Research on Cognition, Learning, and Education (CIRCLE) at Washington University in St. Louis.  He received his Ph.D from University of Colorado in 1980.  His research is in the general area of human learning and memory, with an emphasis on prospective memory, encoding and retrieval process in episodic memory and applications to educational contexts. His educationally relevant research includes a series of studies on individual differences in conceptual learning tendencies, elaborative study techniques and enhancing learning through testing (repeated retrieval), with much of his latter work being conducted in actual college and middle school classrooms.  This research has been sponsored by the Institute of Educational Sciences and the James S. McDonnell Foundation. McDaniel is co-author, with Gilles Einstein, of two books: Memory Fitness: A Guide for Successful Aging (Yale University Press, 2004) and Prospective Memory: An Overview and Synthesis of an Emerging Field (Sage Press, 2007) and co-author of Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning (Harvard University Press, 2014, with Peter Brown and Henry Roediger)


      Dr. Liz Thomas

      Dr. Liz Thomas

      Independent researcher and consultant for higher education and Professor of Higher Education at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, England

      Professor Liz Thomas (PhD, MA, BA) is an independent researcher and consultant for higher education and Professor of Higher Education at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, England. She has approximately twenty years’ experience of undertaking and managing research about widening participation, student retention and success and institutional approaches to improving the student experience and outcomes. She is committed to using research to inform UK national and institutional policy, practice and evaluation, and has developed and led change programs to facilitate this. She led the internationally renowned What works? Student retention and success program between 2008 and 2017, working with teams from institutions and specific programs of study to develop, implement and evaluate changes in practices and student outcomes. This work has influenced national policy making, institutional approaches and staff practices. In 2017 Liz was an expert member of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) 2 panel (introduced to assess the quality of learning and teaching of higher education providers), and is currently involved in the TEF subject pilots, recognizing her expertise in widening participation, student retention and success and learning and teaching. Liz is the author and editor of over ten books, and many journal articles, reports, briefings and practice guides. She regularly delivers keynote addresses and staff development workshops and programmes at higher education institutions in the UK and abroad.

Educational Results

Science + Empathy + Data insights