Spitballing a definition of Open Homework Systems

2 min read

To wrap up this week’s posts on on homework systems, I thought I would try to create something a bit more concrete than my previous ramblings (What is a homework system?, and Early thoughts on my new open homework systems project).

I want to try to define what a homework system is, and what an open homework system is. I’d really love your feedback on these definitions as this is still very much thinking in the open kind of stuff.

Ok, here goes.

What are Homework Systems?

Homework systems are a class of education technology that supports student practice, self-reflection, and self-assessment in order to reinforce concepts they have learned in class.

Homework systems may also be known as adaptive learning platforms, personalized learning platforms, or digital tutoring systems, and may contain interactive elements, self-quizzes, prompts for student reflection, simulations, and offer hints and suggestions.

Homework systems may also include adaptive engines that can respond to learners as they work their way through problem sets and assess their performance as the work through the sets, changing and adapting new questions based on a students input.

While a homework system can be a stand-alone application installed on a single computer or mobile device for a single user, they are more commonly developed and deployed as web-enabled, network applications.

Homework systems can be seen as a compliment technology to Learning Management Systems, Digital Courseware, and Open Textbook platforms, although LMS, Digital Courseware and Open Textbook platforms are not required to use a Homework System.

Pedagogical concepts associated with homework systems can include: spaced repetition, scaffolding, rapid feedback, and mastery learning.

What is an Open Homework System?

An open homework system is a homework system that is released with an open source licence that allows anyone to host their own instance of the system, and to modify and/or reuse the application with no software licensing fees.

Open homework systems should also provide technical capabilities within it to support open educational practices, through the incorporation of open educational resources, open licenses, and collaborative features that provide instructors the ability to collaboratively create and share problem sets with each other, and include features & functions that give students the ability to create or co-create their own problem sets and/or self-directed personal pathways for review and reflection, and share those with other students.

Your Turn

Is this useful in helping to define what a homework system is? I am especially looking for some feedback on this point:

Homework Systems may also be known as adaptive learning platforms, personalized learning platforms, or digital tutoring systems.

Is this a view that others in the community share, that adaptive learning and personalized learning platforms fit under a classification of homework systems? Or is that reversed and homework systems should fit under personalized/adaptive learning platforms? Am I conflating homework systems with personalized and adaptive learning platforms? And is a digital/virtual tutor a homework system in your view?

I’d very much appreciate your thoughts on this.


4 thoughts on “Spitballing a definition of Open Homework Systems

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with the digital tutoring part of your definition. On many of the questions I assign, for marks, using the online test feature of my Learning Management System, Blackboard, I allow the students multiple attempts and give hints when they get a wrong answer. This allows for asynchronous digital tutoring. I scaffold the questions up the difficult ones that they will see on their midterms and final exams. I use an adapted version Open Stax College Physics and Open Stax Astronomy in my courses.

    1. Thanks Jennifer. I appreciate the feedback. Yeah, I think that tutor part is an important aspect as it provides some very quick feedback to learners, which is something that I am going to go back and add into the pedagogical concepts bit – rapid feedback – as this is another core pedagogical piece of these systems that I missed including.

  2. Interesting definitional questions at the end here. I am not sure I have an educated view on this, but just on the face of it it seems to me that adaptive learning platforms & personalized learning platforms would be the broader category. I haven’t looked into those deeply, but could it be that these might be used for other purposes than supporting student practice and self-assessment (important to the definition of homework systems you start with here)? Could adaptive learning include guiding students along individualized paths through something like a whole (online) course, for example, delivering content as well as opportunities for practice and self-assessment? In my current, very preliminary thinking here, it just doesn’t sound right to say that all adaptive learning and personalized learning would be classified under homework systems, because I think they could encompass other kinds of things.

    1. Thanks, Christina. I think that is where my thinking is at, too. Adaptive could be a feature of a homework system, but a homework system doesn’t necessarily need to be adaptive to be a homework system. A truly adaptive system would be something that also responds to student interactions outside the homework piece. I am thinking about something like bots and auto-reponses to FAQ in a course syllabus or discussion forum.

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