New approach to learning uses ‘interconnected nodes’ of information

May 3, 2011
Learning Nodes

iPad is used to review learning nodes in new education program (credit: Wake Forest University)

Students can access dozens of pieces of information, including text, videos, quizzes, interviews with experts, and supplemental information to ensure better understanding and engagement, in a new program that has been developed by educational researchers at Wake Forest University.

The researchers found that switching from rigid, linear (and unread) textbooks to technology such as iPads alone won’t boost student performance. So they designed a program that allows students to tailor each course to their own learning style.

The team created an ever-evolving learning space customizable for a variety of students using iPad apps. Information is organized into “interconnected nodes” that contain all of the baseline information a textbook would include, but in a non-linear hyperlinked manner, plus supplemental material and self-assessments to enhance the learning experience.

• Basic text is reinforced with multimedia: a video showing how the cells split; an interview with a molecular biologist who talks about how mitosis goes astray in cancer; images of the cells.

• Embedded quizzes assess comprehension of the topic and a student’s ability to use that knowledge. The system monitors students’ scores as well as overall interaction with the content, so the teacher can monitor progress and suggest help when needed.

• Students can ask for help by posting questions to peers or to the teacher. The teacher can review answers given by peers to ensure accuracy.

• Students and teachers can write new nodes. In 2010, 19 students in one of the first-year seminar courses used the system and wrote 130 new nodes in one semester.

The researchers say this new way of teaching works for a variety of different learning styles. It also better engages students who have learning difficulties such as dyslexia or other processing disorders, and who have long struggled with the traditional lecture-and-reading assignment model.