Improving Student Learning: One Nudge at a Time

Guest post by Haley Blank and Malorie Lipstein, Duke undergraduate research assistants with the BRITE Lab

One of the greatest obstacles facing college students is finding a balance between their busy academic and social schedules and being able to remember enough information from their classes to be successful on tests and other assessments. 

What is Nudge?

To tackle this problem, Duke Learning Innovation is developing its newest tool to foster student learning while balancing the stressful college lifestyle: Nudge. Modeled after the concept of a physical nudge, a gentle motivational force, Nudge is an application that helps students forget less, increasing distributed practice to spread out study activities over time. Approximately 24 hours after class, students get a notification from Nudgie the octopus, which includes one simple multiple choice question about a topic discussed during the lecture. Nudge is user friendly, allowing students to answer the question on-the-go through their phone or computer via text or email. After the students submit their responses, they receive feedback including the correct answer and explanation as to why that answer is correct. 

Empirical Investigations

In the spring of 2019, Duke professor Karen Murphy collaborated with researchers at Duke Learning Innovation to evaluate the impact of Nudge. They found that students who received nudges had a final course grade of 1.43 percentage points higher on average than students who did not. This is because just the one question activates cognitive memory, subconsciously moving information up to the forefront of students’ memory without the pressure of being formally assessed or graded.

Future plans for Nudge

Moving forward, Nudge plans to move from a prototype to a fully functioning application that can be used in many classrooms across Duke’s campus in lecture classes.

This research was presented at the October BRITE Ideas discussion group. All are invited to attend the next meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 featuring guest speaker Tom Newpher, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Psychology and Neuroscience, speaking on “Team-Based Learning in Undergraduate STEM: Learning Outcomes and Impacts on Course Satisfaction” Register here.