Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



International Academy of Technology, Education and Development


Best practices for helping students learn and retain information have been well established by research in cognitive science (Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel, 2014; Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan, & Willingham, 2013). Specifically, repeated testing has been shown in numerous instances to enhance recall. In particular, we know that students retain information best when it has been recalled versus re-studied (Butler, 2010) and rehearsed with delayed (spaced) versus massed presentation (Cepeda, Pashler, Vul, Wixted, & Rohrer, 2006), and when the items to be studied and later tested are similarly framed (McDaniel, Wildman, & Anderson, 2012). Although these effects were initially demonstrated in laboratory settings, a number of researchers have shown that they generalize to classroom environments (e.g. Vlach & Sandhofer, 2012) and some have demonstrated their utility in fully online courses as well (McDaniel et al., 2012). However, in multiple studies we have found that implementing some of these best practices using publisher-provided textbook technology supplements (TTS) does not meaningfully improve recall (Bell, Simone & Whitfield, 2015; 2016), at least when these supplements are used “out-of-the-box” in face-to-face courses. We conclude when using TTS in an online environment there is a mismatch between student and faculty goals, in that students are motivated by short-term goals of getting high score of a quiz even if the behaviors used to achieve that score do not enhance long-term recall or generalization of the learned material, which typically are the goals of faculty. We argue that TTS can be reconfigured to reinforce meaningful engagement with the material for all students, regardless of learning history or other individual differences of students (e.g., Gluckman, Vlach & Sandhofer, 2014). Actually, in order to continue to require the purchase of these TTS by students, we should determine whether their use is beneficial to all types of students. A related empirical question is whether recall of factual information in an online environment is correlated with the later ability to use that information in a novel situation (generalizability). Whereas some researchers have found that factual information learned via repeated testing does help students to draw inferences about the implications of those facts in later testing (Butler, 2010), others have failed to find a correlation between testing effects and generalizability of the learned material (Gluckman et al., 2014). The literature on this question is still somewhat small, however, (see Carpenter, 2012, for a brief review) and this is particularly true of investigations involving online learning. In this paper we review the existing literature of the spacing benefit and online learning. We end with a proposal for the need of new research specific to the online environment that manipulates delayed repeated testing and examines whether successful retention of factual information promotes long-term application of that material.


8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies 4-6 July, 2016 Barcelona, Spain

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Psychology Commons



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