Gamified and Personalized Statistics Tutor

This activity was designed for the Institute for Clinical Research Education for their online Biostatistics course. The story is that the student has been locked in a room and the only door has a numbered keypad on the lock. The code to unlock the door is hidden in a clue about a conditional probability problem. When the prisoner can correctly calculate the probability, they can unlock the door to escape the room. If the learner cannot solve the problem themselves, the tutor provides a series of steps as well as hints and feedback to guide the learner to the correct answer. The science of learning has discovered that students learning mathematics and similar domains learn best when they get plenty of feedback on the work they are practicing. When this feedback is personalized and in real time, learning becomes much more efficient and robust. This SCORM-compliant activity analyzes every student input and provides feedback customized to that student’s answer. When a student gives an incorrect answer, the tutor explains why that answer is incorrect. If the tutor sees a pattern of incorrect answers, it addresses the misconceptions most likely to be the cause of those incorrect answers. 

The game mechanic addresses a challenge unique to the learning objectives of this lesson. In order to assess the learner’s mastery of these learning objectives, they are asked to solve a very complex problem. If the learner cannot solve the problem, there are a dozen steps where the mistake or misconception could be hiding. Exploring every step necessary to solve this problem would take most learners at least 30 minutes. That is time well spent for students who need the help, but a frustrating waste of time for a student who was only making a simple mistake. For example, it is easy for students to mix up population mean and sample mean when choosing a formula to solve a problem. A student might have a good grasp of the material but made this simple error. Such a student wouldn’t need to work 30 minutes on the details of solving this problem, but needs only a few minutes of very targeted help to identify the error. The escape room mechanic of unlocking the door at any time means that as soon students figure out what they were doing incorrectly, they can enter the correct answer and “escape” the problem set. To make this work, the tutor starts with the most likely causes of errors and then works through the problem from beginning to end explaining each step. Whenever a student can solve the problem, and thus demonstrate some mastery of the learning objective, the lesson is over. Learning remains robust and efficient.

This is one of 12 interactive problem sets designed for an online Biostatistics course.