A visual approach towards knowledge engineering and understanding how students learn in complex environments

A visual approach towards knowledge engineering and understanding how students learn in complex environments

Lauren Fratamico, Sarah Perez, and Ido Roll

Complex learning environments, such as virtual labs, support divergent learning pathways. For a researcher who is trying to understand how learning unfolds in these environments, it is challenging to engineer features in order to both (i) identify features that are informative with respect to abstracting learning strategies and (ii) differentiate groups of learners. In this paper, we present a visualization tool that addresses these challenges by facilitating a novel analytic approach to aid in the knowledge engineering process, focusing on five main capabilities: data-driven hypotheses raising, visualizing behavior over time, easily grouping related actions, contrasting learners' behaviors on these actions, and comparing the behaviors of groups of learners. We apply this analytic approach to better understand how students work with a popular interactive physics virtual lab. By splitting learners by learning gains, we found that students who learned more performed more active testing and adapted more quickly to the task at hand by focusing on more relevant testing instruments. Implications for online virtual labs and a broader class of complex learning environments are discussed throughout.