3 Ways IXL Could Excel

After hearing groans from my eight year old while doing his online IXL homework (and my wife's complaints), I decided to sit with him today while he did one of his lessons.

Naturally, I was curious about the app and how they engage (or don't) younger users to complete math and language arts lessons.

Today, my son was working thru Time: Reading clocks and write times.

Preventing Form Entry Mistakes

The first thing that I noticed, since we specialize in developing forms and workflows to keep adults engaged, is that the input boxes for the time-based questions relied on the user to include a colon, ":" as part of their answer in the single input field.

Even if I was designing this for adults, I would have supplied two input boxes, one for the hour, and another for the minutes, separated by a colon. Are you testing for punctuation here, or reading the clocks?

Change the Soul Sucking Scoring

Second, the scoring mechanism drives my child to tears. I had to experience this myself to see why. We got all the way to 99 out of 100 points on the lesson, and I purposely answered incorrectly. Our score was promptly dropped back to 91, requiring us to crawl back up 9 questions to regain our place. After missing a few questions, you're soon looking at an hour's time for what would be considered a basic lesson. Recently, IXL linked to an article about MITs Education Arcade, alluding to how schools don't need 'gamification'.

“There are so many little skills, like dealing with frustration, that these kids are also getting from this game,” he said. “I can see kids becoming less frustrated with stuff they don’t understand. That’s really important for any student.”

And while I agree with that statement, my son's experience with IXL is anything but that.

Reinforce Skills, Not Repetition

Third, relevant recall. So in this clock reading exercise, the students are asked various questions like telling the time from analog and digital clocks, to writing down the time for "twenty-five minutes to seven". But if you miss a question, like number 99 of 100, you'll have to answer 9 random questions again regardless of the type you missed.

It wouldn't be that difficult to add metadata to questions, so that if the student missed a question involving an analog clock, to ask a couple more questions of that type to confirm it wasn't just a simple mistake, or to reinforce the lesson to make sure they have that concept or type down, vs. just randomly regurgitating questions.

There's such a fight now for quality schools, teachers, smaller class sizes, and personalized instruction. But I also see a huge opportunity for tailored, intelligent, instruction that adapts to your individual child's needs.

What's your experience with online learning tools for your children? Any you can recommend?

Tagged Education, Gamification, IXL

About the Author

Eric Gockel

Eric Gockel