Adaptive and “Pseudo-adaptive” LMS Feedback

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Whenever we build a one-size-fits-all learning experience for all students to move through independently, we should think about how the learner will get personalized feedback when they get a wrong answer. We want to present them with authentic challenges that will reveal whether they have mastered the required skills or need more remediation to reach mastery.

Educators always dream out loud about the day when AI bots will be smart enough to accurately recognize a wrong answer and gracefully coach the learner back towards the right answer. In 2024, even with the amazing tasks AI chatbots can perform, the technology produces “hallucinations” and unexpected results at too high a rate to turn it loose upon our beloved learners. Even now, there is no substitute for a caring, informed adult who understands learners’ misunderstandings and can guide them on to more remediation activities.

However, I developed the idea of “pseudo adaptive” feedback years ago by utilizing the built-in feedback features in your LMS’ quiz question tool. These feedback fields are too often ignored or under-utilized, but they have the potential to serve as a semi-intelligent “guide on the side” who can respond to a wrong answer with just the words you would use — because they’re your words!

You can write a custom response to every quiz question you offer, giving personalized feedback that will be delivered to the learner right after they select their choice. This is your chance to acknowledge their effort, tell them whether they’re correct or incorrect, and suggest remediation steps they might take to get the right answer next time.

Microscope drawings plant cells glass

In this example quiz question:

What is the role of mitochondria in a cell?

  • A. Mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, responsible for producing energy in the form of ATP.
  • B. Mitochondria are the control center of the cell, responsible for directing all cellular activities.
  • C. Mitochondria are the storage units of the cell, responsible for holding important nutrients and molecules.
  • D. Mitochondria are the waste disposal system of the cell, responsible for breaking down and removing cellular waste.

I had an AI chatbot design personalized feedback for each of the incorrect answers:

  • B. Mitochondria are not the control center of the cell. That role belongs to the nucleus. Mitochondria are responsible for energy production, not directing cellular activities. To learn more about the functions of mitochondria, check out this resource: [URL for a reliable website explaining the role of mitochondria in cells].
  • C. Mitochondria are not the storage units of the cell. That role belongs to organelles like the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus. Mitochondria are focused on generating energy, not storing nutrients and molecules. For more information on cellular organelles and their functions, you can review this guide: [URL for a comprehensive cell biology resource].
  • D. Mitochondria are not the waste disposal system of the cell. That role belongs to structures like lysosomes. Mitochondria are responsible for powering the cell through ATP production, not breaking down and removing cellular waste. To deepen your understanding of mitochondrial functions, check out this article: [URL for a detailed explanation of mitochondrial roles].
  • Great effort on this question! Remember, mitochondria are indeed the “powerhouses” of the cell, responsible for generating the energy the cell needs to function. Keep reviewing the resources provided, and let me know if you have any other questions!

By triggering the appropriate response above based on a learner’s input, you can simulate the kind of “intelligent” response that we want so badly for AI chatbots to provide. However, with this approach, you can implement this in any LMS or eLearning authoring platform you already have access to, and you have the added control of being able to copy-edit and approve these AI-generated answers before they reach learners.

AI Makes this Incredibly Fast and Well Worth the Effort

I used to be very nervous bringing up this idea to busy teachers because I recognize the added workload required to make these highly detailed feedback items for every single assessment question you offer. I used to do them by hand because I genuinely believe they’re a great way to provide “teacher presence” behaviors, even in situations when a teacher can not be actually present. Infusing each response with encouraging language helps learners feel acknowledged and cared for by their instructor at the very moment when they need guidance most. But I’ve always known that it’s a huge time commitment that most teachers feel too overwhelmed to undertake.

AI chatbots change the whole calculation of the time required to offer an adaptive “coach” to respond to learner inputs with personalized, appropriate, and encouraging responses. These responses can also link out to external URLs like YouTube videos or web articles that provide targeted remediation on that specific skill. Now, you can have an AI generate these responses, customize them to taste, and add in your own links to authoritative sources you’d want them to review. This makes it possible for any online educator to offer personalized feedback at scale without costly platforms and unreliable AI bots coming between you and your learners.

Again, remember that video games motivate us by giving us multiple tries to try, fail, re-assess, and try again. You may want to offer multiple versions of each quiz question so learners can try again after they’ve gone through your remediation steps, much like the way Angry Birds lets users keep trying until they succeed.

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Written by

Ted Curran is a Learning Experience Designer/Developer for Autodesk. He is committed to empowering educators and learners to create transformational change through effective pedagogy and technology integration. You can follow Ted on Mastodon, LinkedIn or learn more at my 'About" page. These thoughts are my own.

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