Developed a flashcard activity for Fulcrum's e-learning platform to promote better information retention and recall.
Scope and evaluate Fulcrum's current product and develop a product goal that works to improve a particular feature or solve a problem.
Fulcrum Labs, Adaptive Digital Learning Platform
Researcher & Designer
Summer 2018, 8 Weeks
Developing and leveraging scalable, personalized, adaptive technologies and analytics that help learners quickly master defined objectives and gain confidence.
As a recent college graduate and an advocate for unconventional learning, I was pleased to learn that Fulcrum offers their services to higher education institutions. Their goal is to move away from the traditional education model and turn students into learners and then learners into confident subject matter masters.
However, institutions using this platform are still measuring students' performance through formal in-classroom exams. While some exams are multiple choice based, most exams utilize short and long essay style questions or problems. This requires recalling information without any choices or extra information besides the question to aid memory.
The practice section of Fulcrum's learning platform uses a range of multiple choice, matching, fill in the blank, and true/false questions. These questions test recognition rather than engaging active recall which doesn't best prepare students for delivering high level information on in-class exams.
My goal is to prepare learners more thoroughly for performance exams by developing an activity on the platform that will allow learners to practice retrieving information from memory and confidently deliver answers in their own words.
For research, I examined the best study practices and reflected on my own educational experience. Both scientific studies and current students revealed that flashcards are an extremely effective way to practice actively recalling information.
A flashcard in its simplest form is a question or concept written on one side and the answer written on the other side of an index card. They are used to compile the concepts one needs to review and self-test one's current knowledge. The simplicity and customizability of flashcards allows people of all ages and learning styles to utilize this tool.
Flashcards promote active recall, confidence based repetition, within-session spacing, and engage metacognitive faculties. These four practices aid learners in gaining a deeper understanding of the material which translates to better performance.
Although many digital flashcard apps and websites exist, incorporating personalized technology does allow for new ways to enhance the experience. This includes utilizing self-assessment indicators to predetermine the spacing of the cards and alerting users to review sections related to missed cards.
Self-directed assessment allows learners to take responsibility for their own learning by gauging their progress and practicing till they feel confident in their mastery of the concepts.
Challenging the brain to retrieve information and deliver concepts from scratch is more effective in moving information from short-term memory into long-term memory than passively reviewing material.
Spacing study by using large stacks of flashcards over multiple days have larger positive effects on memory than massed study. As spacing reduces accessibility to information, learning is enhanced by having to relearn the material.
Self-reflection after practicing allows learners to reflect upon, understand, and control their learning, which tends to ingrain memories deeper into their knowledge.
Learners are able to unlock and access the flashcard activity once they have completed all the sections in the corresponding unit. Once unlocked, they can practice as frequently as desired. The activity is accessible on the main course page and on the side bar navigation of the learning module.
Learners are greeted by Blue the Husky, Fulcrum's AI teacher.
This provides them with a short overview of what the activity entails and the learning objectives. It also ensures the learner that their course performance is not affected by this review activity.
Providing this information gives the user context before entering the activity. This helps reduce friction and creates a more welcoming onboarding experience.
Learners are presented with a prompt or question and have the ability to type in their answer below the flashcard. The process of typing the information encourages a deeper level of intellectual processing and showcases one's ability to deliver a concrete and concise response. This is to avoid answering in one's head, which can lead to false confidence about current knowledge. Also, typing and reading back their own response increases retention by having exposure to what they know in a visual manner.
Once learners have responded, they can "flip" the flashcard to reveal the given answer which locks in their response and can't be edited.
Note: Cards can contain text, images, and audio content.
Learners can compare their response to the given answer and evaluate how they performed. While the answers don't need to match word for word, having the answers side by side enables them to pinpoint which key words or details they might be missing.
Learners are then prompted to assign a level of mastery to their own performance. Acknowledging what concepts they do or do not fully understand allows them to actively gauge their own progress. This also provides the adaptive platform with data to optimally order and space the content for the learner according to their needs.
I offered two possible designs for the self-assessment feature; however, there is a wide range of scales, measurements, and vocabulary used to define performance.
Selecting universal performance level indicators can be tricky when every learner perceives their own competence differently. The hope is that they take responsibility of their own learning and have a consistent guideline when assessing themselves.
After finishing a set of flashcards, learners are presented with a brief breakdown of how they performed based on their self-assessment and are notified which corresponding sections of the unit they should review to improve. Learners can then opt to review the flashcards again or be taken back to the course page.
I discovered the process of implementing a new feature into a product can be slow and full of constraints. My ideal version of the feature will not be able to just operate within the current infrastructure of the product. For example, my feature requires new curated content (formatted essay questions and answers) provided by the client and obtaining this requires time and resources that clients will not offer unless they see the value in this new feature.
To work within the current constraints, we can utilize the available content from existing courses (from fill in the blank or multiple choice questions) to test the feature in the first iterations of prototyping. The existing question stems may the lack depth and complexity found in essay questions but we will still be able to test the functionality of the feature.
By the end of my internship, I delivered wireframes and a clickable prototype for Fulcrum to further test and iterate on. The team responded positively and believes this feature will help learners strengthen their information retention and encourage more practice after initially completing the course unit. I have learned to think big but realized there are constraints due to the current infrastructure of the product and resources. It is important to understand the learners’ goals and desired outcomes and take these into account in helping the company create an effective product roadmap.
Working directly with the team was a great experience because I was able to fully understand their business and their client's goals in creating my project. Being my first venture into product development, I enjoyed the process of conceptualizing my product goal and turning it into a tangible activity. I've learned to not only develop a functional feature but also build a story around how it will fit into the existing platform. Ultimately, I hope a refined version of my project is put into production in the future and helps enhance the Fulcrum learning experience.
Future suggestions & what I would do differently