Can Behavioral Tools Improve Online Student Outcomes? Experimental Evidence from a Massive Open Online Course

Richard W. Patterson, Cornell University, Apr 29, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

As Jon Dron says, this is an interesting and well-argued paper. The author tests the use of behavioural aides to increase course completion and argues "the commitment device increases course completion by 40% (11 percentage points), improves overall course performance by 0.29 standard deviations, and increases the amount of time students spend on the course website by 24% (5.5 hours) relative to the control." The commitment device enabled them to "set a limit on distracting Internet time each day" (my limit would have to be eight hours or something like that). Of course, they could just use standing desks instead.

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