School & District Management

eLearning Update: A Reluctance to Ask for Help

By Katie Ash — April 15, 2011 1 min read

My colleague Sarah Sparks recently wrote about how students using computer tutors are reluctant to ask for help according to a series of studies about computer-based tutoring programs.

In fact, when students missed a question, 75 percent of them tried a different answer instead of asking for help by clicking the “hint” button.

“And the pattern persists after any consecutive number of errors; after five, six attempts, I am still more likely to try again than to ask for help,” said Ido Roll, a postdoctoral researcher at the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia and a member of the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center. Once students did decide to click on the hint button for help, 82 percent of the students simply clicked through the hints without reading them in order to reveal the correct answer.

To combat this pattern, Roll is experimenting with a new kind of adaptive tutoring program that prompts students to ask for help by pointing to the hint button for students when they miss a question and asking students to slow down and think if they click through the hint too quickly. His new system brought the proportion of students clicking through hints too quickly down to 48 percent.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.