Andrew Ho, research director of HarvardX and an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), spoke with the Gazette about a recent study that found that interspersing online lectures with short tests improved student performance. The practice cut student mind-wandering by half, tripled the rate of note-taking, and improved overall retention of the material, according to the research, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.GAZETTE: In describing the study, senior author Daniel Schacter, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Psychology, said there is “shockingly little” hard scientific data on how students learn online — how useful do you see this new study as being?HO: Of course it’s incredibly important. Dan is a member of our HarvardX Research Committee, which is charged with coordinating and supporting the research mission of HarvardX, and research like this is one reason he’s on that committee, and one of the many ways he’s contributed to our discussions thus far.It’s true that there are fewer scientific research findings in this field than one would expect, but that is rapidly changing, and it’s frankly our mission to change it. One of the challenges to this type of research is that it can be difficult to obtain large sample sizes, but the platform we have is beginning to change that. We are able to capture every mouse click with HarvardX, and that is an incredibly rich resource for research. It’s allowing us to address a number of questions that we hadn’t been able to address in the past, and Dan’s paper is an example of the type of work we want to facilitate.GAZETTE: What was your reaction when you first saw the findings?HO: I think the take-home point from this for our HarvardX research mission is the importance of experimental research. HarvardX is already incorporating the implications of Dan’s findings into its courses — we’re already interspersing assessments with lectures, but the key question is: How do we know if it is working? This type of controlled experimentation is the answer.What Dan’s work allows us to say is that interspersing lectures with tests isn’t just associated with these outcomes — it actually caused them. It is the reason why mind-wandering decreased and note-taking increased. Without this type of rigorous experimentation, all we have is speculation. I think that’s the great opportunity that HarvardX affords, and it’s something that we are primed to take advantage of with people like Dan on the committee.Dan is hoping to replicate this in the HarvardX world, and to ask questions about whether this result can be generalized to other courses or other topics, and whether this leads to greater learning outcomes, which is something we haven’t been able to test yet.GAZETTE: There is still a perception that taking online classes is somehow less educationally valid than being in a brick-and-mortar classroom. Do you see this study as refuting that belief?HO: This is a reminder that online learning is an active process, not a passive process. We are not watching television, we are not watching TED talks, and we are not watching YouTube videos. We are an active participant in a process that is challenging us, and forcing us to think and respond. What this paper shows is that active participation doesn’t just force us to move, it actually focuses us, and elicits behaviors that are associated with active learning.GAZETTE: While this recent paper focuses on online education, researchers have said they would expect to see the same effect in in-person lectures. How do you see the best practices of the virtual classroom affecting real-world classrooms?HO: The world of online education challenges us as instructors to make our teaching good enough to show to the entire world. But part of the HarvardX mission is to make sure that we are having an impact on our students on Harvard’s campus as well — this is not just about how we can distribute our lectures around the world but how we can improve our practice for our students here.I think, in many ways, online education is about putting old pieces together in new ways, but what we find is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We are engaging communities through online discussion forums, and by encouraging constant self-assessment. Students can see their progress is real-time and, as they’re sitting and watching a lecture, they can also track and measure their learning. As Dan’s work shows, this can be an incredibly motivating and active process.There is as much a lesson here for our classrooms on campus — that if we can break up our presentation into assessable moments, it can improve students’ overall performance. The virtual classroom need not replace the real-world classroom as much as transform it — we can improve our practices by incorporating these new technologies and these new models of interaction. We are active participants, and what this paper shows is that by challenging us to do more than watch, but to think, we cannot help but learn.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the Indiana State Fire Marshal welcome the public’s help in providing information related to fire investigations throughout the state.May 1-7 is Arson Awareness Week in Indiana, and Indiana Department of Homeland Security is reminding all Hoosiers that any additional information from citizens can help expedite cases for investigations.Citizens are reminded to always be aware if they see a fire in their area.Should a fire start nearby, those in the area should keep a safe distance and call 911.If someone is seen fleeing from the area where the fire has occurred, take note of the person’s appearance and pass this information on to the authorities.Indiana Department of Homeland Security took part in 549 fire investigations last year, 164 of which were determined to be intentionally-set fires.As a result, 41 suspects were arrested in connection to these fires.So far, investigators have assisted with 208 investigations in 2016 where fires were determined to be intentionally-set, and 10 arrests have been made.
By Luke BradshawAMNESTY International has released a report stating that people working in Qatar ahead of the 2022 World Cup continue to be mistreated, despite assurances from authorities.Ahead of the tournament, according to the human rights organisation, workers continue to be exploited, going unpaid and having their rights violated.It comes after new laws were passed in Qatar that were supposed to improve conditions for workers, including those working on various 2022 World Cup projects.With an agreement with the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation, the laws are intended to improve workers’ rights, including the introduction of a minimum wage, insurance and the ending of the controversial sponsorship of labour.Qatar’s labour sponsorship is a system that involves workers’ passports being handed over to their employers when they join the company.Given that the vast majority of workers are immigrants, mostly from Bangladesh, it makes it incredibly difficult for them to then change jobs or leave the country, because they need their employers’ permission to get their passport back.The 52-page report focused on three cleaning and construction companies, not specifically pertaining to the World Cup. It stated that hundreds of workers were being employed without being paid, with over 1 600 complaints submitted by workers.Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s deputy director of global issues, said: “Despite the significant promises of reform which Qatar has made ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it remains a playground for unscrupulous employers.“Migrant workers often go to Qatar in the hope of giving their families a better life – instead many people return home penniless after spending months chasing their wages, with too little help from the systems that are supposed to protect them.”The abuse of human rights has been a constant problem since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar since 2010. In response to the ongoing problems, last year it was announced that Qatar would introduce a Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund. This was supposed to provide workers who had not been paid with compensation, but has gone completely unfunded, according to Amnesty.FIFA responded to the report by Amnesty. They said: “We would like to note that, as confirmed by Amnesty International, the report does not concern World Cup sites. The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy has also confirmed that the contractors referenced in the report have never been engaged on World Cup projects in Qatar.“We, however, acknowledge the importance of the new labour dispute committee as an important part of the broader labour rights reforms taking place in Qatar. We know that the Qatari authorities are working intensely in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation and other stakeholders with a view to further improve the effectiveness of this complex but vital mechanism.A spokesman at the Government Communications Office of the State of Qatar said: “We are aware of a recent report published by Amnesty International concerning the status of workers in Qatar.“Qatar has made substantial progress on labour reforms. We continue to work with NGOs, including the International Labour Organisation (ILO, to ensure that these reforms are far-reaching and effective. Any issues or delays with our systems will be addressed comprehensively. We have said, from the outset, that this would take time, resources and commitment.” (Yahoo Sport UK)•