Hands-on Projects that Approach the Effectiveness of Tutoring Sessions
By Adam Hodges, Ph.D.
Educators have long faced the fundamental challenge of how to provide the instructional equivalent of one-to-one tutoring to large groups of learners. In a seminal paper, Benjamin Bloom (1984) demonstrated that learners involved in individual or small-group tutoring performed two standard deviations above the level achieved by students in a traditional class. Bloom termed this the “2 sigma problem.” As learning has moved online, the challenge has remained: How to provide instruction at scale in a manner that approaches the effectiveness of one-to-one tutoring?
Coursera has always embraced this challenge, embedding mastery learning principles into the platform — for example, with in-video questions that turn the passive watching of videos into an active learning experience and through the use of actionable feedback tailored to learner responses on quizzes.
Coursera now offers Guided Projects to help learners acquire job-relevant skills in under two hours by working on an interactive project guided by a subject matter expert. The dual-screen interface allows learners to watch the instructor’s explanation and demonstration on the right side of the screen while performing the same steps in the same software environment on the left side of the screen.
Guided Projects epitomize active learning by involving learners in doing the things they are striving to learn while receiving valuable guidance and feedback along the way. The learning experience revolves around authentic, real-world projects that relate to learners’ professional goals and interests.
Today we’re publishing a white paper — “Guided Projects on Coursera Facilitate Hands-on Acquisition of Skills” — that synthesizes the academic research and findings that underpin the efficacy of guided instruction as a learning tool.
Central to the Guided Projects learning experience is the work learners do on authentic, real-world projects. Instructors provide appropriate scaffolding to assist learners as they develop the knowledge and skills required to complete the project, allowing learners to work beyond what they could accomplish on their own without instruction.
This approach to direct guided instruction is supported by research on the efficacy of “worked examples” as a means of scaffolding the learning experience for novice to intermediate learners.
Although novice to intermediate learners benefit from direct guided instruction, learners more advanced in a domain benefit from more open-ended challenges — an approach that Guided Projects provide through the “challenge mode.” Guided Projects thereby differentiate instruction based on the learner’s ability level.
The white paper provides the foundation for effective instructional design that takes advantage of the unique learner interface of Guided Projects on Coursera.