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Engineering  |  The Polytechnic School

Human systems engineering lab advances online learning research

by Aug 7, 2020Latest news

Identifying best practices for effective online learning has become especially significant in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But even before the coronavirus outbreak, the Arizona State University Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Partnership Lab was busy evaluating methods to improve the functionality and effectiveness of learning in an unconventional setting.

ASU ADL partnership lab logoThe ASU ADL Partnership Lab, established in 2016 and housed at the Polytechnic School, one of the six Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, conducts most of its research to advance learning initiatives in the public sector. Led by the U.S. Department of Defense ADL Initiative, it is one of three academic partnerships based in the United States that are part of the ADL Global Partnership Initiative involving 17 U.S.-allied governments around the world.

The idea for the lab was formed after the Department of Defense Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense of Readiness decided to expand its Global ADL partnership initiative to include more learning science expertise and human system evaluation capabilities — skills considered essential to the mission to support military readiness.

“The ASU ADL partnership lab advocates reliance on evidence-based practices and policies to make decisions about technology adoption and implementation,” says Scotty Craig, human systems engineering associate professor and program chair and head of the ASU ADL Partnership Lab. “We actively seek to identify these practices by identifying other’s work and conducting our own research.”

The lab is now conducting a series of research projects:

Science of Learning and Readiness project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (SoLAR)

Science of Learning and Readiness project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (SoLAR) is a collaborative project between human systems engineering and graphic information technology
Timeframe: February 2019 – April 2021
Funding: $894,942

The goal of the SoLAR project is to synthesize best practices for adult online learning beyond a higher education setting and apply those principles to an exemplar course within a Defense Department program.

Research indicates that effective online classes require additional effort for instructors to teach compared to in-person classes. Additional research recommends that decisions to increase class sizes be based on the complexity of the content being taught and the online support available.

“We have researched literature, conducted surveys across the academic, public and private sectors and conducted interviews with exemplar organizations to identify 16 actionable recommendations that will reform distributed learning policy within the DoD,” Craig says.

Faculty involved in this project:
Scotty Craig, principal investigator, human systems engineering
Rod Roscoe, co-principal investigator, human systems engineering
Nancy Cooke, co-principal investigator, human systems engineering
Deborah Prewitt, co-principal investigator, graphic information technology

Additional links:
Link to the exemplar report
Link to the recommendation report
Link to the state-of-the-art report

PERvasive Learning System project: verification, validation and experimental testing funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (PERLS)

PERvasive Learning System project: verification, validation and experimental testing funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (PERLS) is a collaborative project between human systems engineering and software engineering
Timeframe: February 2019 – February 2022
Funding: $1,139,181

The goal of the PERLS project is to evaluate and implement improvements to the Department of Defense’s existing mobile-based microlearning system. The system now provides short learning interactions based on the interest and use of the learner and recommends new information in a sequence to help guide the learner successfully through a program.

Faculty involved in this project:
Scotty Craig, principal investigator, human systems engineering
Rod Roscoe, co-principal investigator, human systems engineering faculty
Kevin Gary, co-principal investigator, software engineering at the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering

ASURE project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, United States Navy

ASURE project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, United States Navy
Timeframe: January 2020 – December 2020
Funding: $199,257

This project will evaluate a multi-agent, spoken-language processing system to assist with the use of an effective training tool for Navy sailors. Similar to the PERLS project, this project will evaluate the systems that underlie learning methodologies from a learning science perspective, conduct usability evaluation on the system and conduct a final evaluation to assess the system’s effectiveness.

Supporting Social Learning in Collaborative Augmented Reality with Virtual Patient and Virtual Mentor funded by the National Science Foundation

Supporting Social Learning in Collaborative Augmented Reality with Virtual Patient and Virtual Mentor funded by the National Science Foundation
Timeframe: August 2019 – July 2022
Funding: $43,851

The ADL Partnership Lab, with the help of the Cognitive-Based Applied Learning Technology Lab, another ASU lab led by Craig, will collaborate on a joint National Science Foundation project with the University of Dallas in Texas. The goal is to assess and improve the communication skills of medical students who are learning to converse with patients virtually. The group will develop a system to monitor conversations and provide feedback to medical students and the course instructor.