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Peer Review

Software for human learning experiments



Overall Numeric Rating:

3.5 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 3 stars
Ease of Use: 2.5 stars
Reviewed: May 26, 2011 by Psychology
Overview: This Spanish site offers 4 different fully online experiments and explanations
of these experiments. In addition, one may download demonstration versions of
varying online experiments and, for a number of them, an article in which the
experimental paradigm is discussed. As of February 2005, only one of the fully
online experiment offers directions and an explanation in English. This
experiment allows the visitor to engage in a learning task that investigates the
impact of consistent and inconsistent ambiguous relationships on learning.
Type of Material: The materials are primarily demonstrations/simulations. In addition, the site contains links to the authors' publications that made use of these programs.
Recommended Uses: The site can be used by students in cognitive psychology or research methods courses who are considering related research questions using computer-based testing or who are learning about the specific processes. Researchers in this area could also benefit from the materials.
Technical Requirements: None.
Identify Major Learning Goals: Only the experiment offered in English will be reviewed. The "Spy-radio Task"
serves to teach the participant about how predictive relationships impact
learning by having the participant experience learning a task with varying
predictive relationships.
The major goal of the site is to provide researchers with simple versions of the programs used in the authors' programs of research. The demonstrations can presumably be adapted for one's own research program.
Target Student Population: The materials are most appropriate for advanced undergraduate and graduate students.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: A background in experimental and/or cognitive psychology, as well as research methods, would be helpful. In order for the participant to truly learn from participating in this experiment, some knowledge of learning and/or understanding of the Wisconsin Card Sort Task would be beneficial.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: The demonstrations are closed linked to published research that addresses specific learning processes. For those familiar with these areas of research, the material is likely to be very useful. A number of peer-reviewed articles are available that explain how the various experiments have been used in research. This provides an excellent means of teaching students about how research is conducted.
Concerns: The articles may be at level that would only be suitable for upper division or graduate students. The explanation provided for the one fully available online experiment is not sufficient.
There are no directions for how to use the demos. Nor does there appear to be any data reports or feedback about the task or any information on how to interpret the data. Users must rely on the published papers to make sense of the demos.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3 stars
Strengths: The site offers students an opportunity to participate in experiments and read about how these experiments were used in research designed to further our understanding of human learning.
The material can be useful for researchers or instructors who are conducting studies or teaching about the learning concepts covered by this site.
Concerns: What is available to English-speaking students is quite limited. Much background material would need to be provided to make the site effective.
How to best use the demonstrations (or how to individualize them) is not clear from the site. The link to the article that summarizes how to use the demos is not working.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 2.5 stars
Strengths: The site is clearly organized and supporting materials are easily accessed. Once opened, the demos contain standard research instructions. The one fully available online experiment with English directions and explanation has clear directions and is easy to use.
Concerns: Because the demos lack help support, they are more difficult to use. Users must download/open zipped files in order to run the demos. There are no instructions about how long a task lasts and it is unclear whether certain programs are working as they are intended. Also, it is not clear how a user can terminate a demo. Some links to articles were dead.

Other Issues and Comments: The site would be more useful if the authors created a set of instructions and help files on how to use the demos. In addition, it would be more useful if the demos ran directly off the main site (e.g., as flash files) rather than via downloading zipped files. This site might be quite useful to those who speak Spanish.