COVID-19 has accelerated use of digital learning platforms by schools, colleges, universities, and independent learners. This offers an unprecedented opportunity to democratise learning by making high-quality education more widely available.
However, the education technology (EdTech) sector must continue to innovate to support positive learner outcomes. Online courses often have lower completion rates than in-person learning. One study – looking at Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) – found that dropout rates can be as high as 96%. Likewise, remote learning during school closures has been far lower than during normal schooling – with 90% of UK teachers reporting that pupils did less or much less work than usual, for example.
How behavioural insights can help
Without a live teacher to motivate learners and track their progress, digital platforms must find other ways to maintain users’ interest – this is where behavioural insights can help. A behavioural approach can identify areas of low engagement on digital learning platforms and rapidly test application of behavioural principles to boost engagement and outcomes.
Previous behavioural science studies have revealed a host of approaches that boost engagement with digital learning – for example:
- Support with study planning can boost online course completion by 29%.
- Prompts to reflect on the benefits of achieving study goals and on how to overcome obstacles to these goals can increase course completion by 15% to 32%.
- Peer interactions (e.g., live discussions or peer marking) improve engagement with remote learning.
To improve outcomes, learning exercises should also be designed to strengthen memory, for example by chunking key information or supporting metacognition and self-regulation.
BIT has already worked with several digital learning platforms, such as HegartyMaths (one of the most widely used platforms in the UK) with successful results, including:
- We more than doubled the number of students accessing help when they answer a question incorrectly on HegartyMaths, and improved student accuracy across the platform with a simple message that appears when students get a question wrong.
- We increased uptake of an evidence-based retrieval practice feature on HegartyMaths by 42% by changing the default setting from teachers opting in to teachers opting out.
- We doubled sign-ups to an online study module (from 6.2% to 12.5% of emailed students) with King’s College London by sending messages to reduce learners’ anxiety about their academic ability.
Below are a starting set of behavioral principles for online training providers to apply:
|Behavioural Principle||In Practice|
In future, BIT would like to partner closely with digital learning platforms to run rapid test-and-learn cycles using behaviourally informed interventions.
Please get in touch to discuss potential partnerships.