Emerging from the 'Dead Zone' with Stile

A research paper by Monash University lecturer Cheryl Howard explores how Stile supports active learning through its ease of use. In this post, I'll summarise the key findings of her work.

The 'Dead Zone'

Cheryl Howard has been following Stile's development closely since its beginning. In her paper, she presents compelling evidence that it is a platform that can help even the most time-poor teachers engage students that may otherwise be lost to what Howard calls the 'Dead Zone' – deliberate withdrawal from the learning process. This withdrawal happens when students perceive a class as being 'bad' or irrelevant to their learning needs. Increasingly, these needs include modern, interactive digital learning environments that stimulate their curiosity by being intuitive to use.

Our students have grown up immersed in robust, visually appealing electronic media.  Most learning management systems currently in use worldwide do not fit the bill, unfortunately.

Stile to the rescue!

Designed in the post-PC era, Stile doesn't suffer from the hangovers that legacy LMSs do. Howard praises its 'aesthetically pleasing and practical design' which reduces the cognitive load for both teachers and students. She set up a research project which compared the university's LMS (Moodle) with Stile and asked students and teachers to rate both platforms on the System Usability Scale (SUS) developed by John Brooke. SUS is  how easy to use a system is. Howard found that Stile won hands-down in every item!

Here are a couple of comments from students about Stile's design:

It provides a weekly overview of my course and assessments without all the unnecessary stuff that Moodle crams in.
— Monash University student
[It’s] intuitive, easily laid out. Easy to access my classes
— Another Monash University student

Howard concludes by stating that Stile does indeed have the potential to be a platform that easily facilitates teachers in creating active and lively learning spaces online.

Howard will conduct further research on the use of mobile devices and in particular "the teaching strategies behind the use of the tasks". The final phase of her research will then "examine the ease with which teachers with minimal technological expertise can create effective teaching environments using the tool and how well it can adapt to their teaching strategies".

We look forward to seeing the results, Cheryl! Read the paper here.