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Monday, November 02, 2009

Failure is an option

Skimmer In May 2008 I wrote about skimming, and fact that:
  • When reading online, users spend more time on pages with more words, but only spend 4.4 seconds more for each additional 100 words. When you add more than 100 words to a page, users will only read 18% of the words on the page.
  • On an average visit, users read half the information only on pages with 111 words or less.
In the large first year course I am currently teaching, it has become painfully clear that many (most?) students are now failing to read instructions posted online, and that this trend has accelerated markedly from last year. Most of the questions we are being asked in face to face help sessions concern quite simple information contained in the online notes, and most of the students attending the help sessions are there because they have tried but failed to complete an assigned task.

Clearly, I need to put less information online for these students. At which point, they will complain, of course, and quite possibly fail to complete an assessed task first time round. At which point we will show them how to do it, or in, I suspect, the majority of cases, they will figure it out.

So maybe failure is an option. Maybe, for authentic and sustained learning practices, failure is the preferred option - preferred over the spoonfed student who always gets it right first time round?