Tutorial: Designing Learning Tasks


This tutorial presents guidelines and considerations for the design of Learning Tasks when reusing existing instrumented widgets. It shows how to design a learning task based on the "Chernoff Face" widget from the instrumentation tutorial.

Target Audience

Learning Experts who want to understand how to design Learning Tasks using metacog-instrumented widgets.

Task Design considerations

There are two considerations when designing a Learning Task based on an instrumented widget:

  • First, make sure your widget allows the learner to interact! Too many widgets are actually decorated multiple-choice items where the user still picks from a enumerated set of discrete answers. Metacog will give you more information even in these cases, but you won't get the full benefit unless you challenge learners with tasks where they have to create or assemble an answer.
  • Second, make sure the widget doesn't have too much rich and specific context - or you won't be able to reuse it for different Learning Tasks. You want to amortize the investment in a great widget across a wide range of tasks. Design your widget without gratuitous features that prevent reusability. Design the widget so it is easy to integrate it into multiple contexts.

Task example: the Emotion Challenge

We are going to design a Learner Task named "The Emotion Challenge", based on the "Chernoff Face" widget instrumented in tutorial 01.

Chernoff widget offer a set of sliders to manipulate the attributes of a face. It also has a snapshot button, that produces a "snapshot" event that can be used by the learner to signal when he reach a meaningful state through the face sliders. Around this features, whe may design a task like the following:

  1. The widget presents to the learner a short story, where a character experiments a set of situations that produce different emotions on her.
  2. A challenge is presented to the learner: he is asked to try to replicate the emotional states of the character at specific points on the story. each time the learner thinks he had achieved one of the target emotions, he will press "snapshot" and continue with the next.

Task technical implementation notes

In order to keep the second goal (be able to reuse the same widget with different tasks) we are going to implement this task as a container webpage that provides the instructions, story and challenge, and we are going to embed the widget using an IFrame element: in that way, future Learning Tasks may embed the same widget.

Go ahead and click in the screenshot below to try the challenge by yourself:

Optional integration between container and widget

For this simple example we are not going to implement comunication between the widget and the container, but in other cases it would be nice to offer some way of interaction, by example: the container may pass configuration attributes to the widget, and the widget may pass events to the container.

It is even possible to find complex widgets where the instrumentation is located in the container page, instead of the widget itself.

An example of this scenary is the Invisible Ink Task, where the PHeT Concentration Simulator send messages to the container widget and those messages are passed to the Metacog Client Library.


In this tutorial whe presented the guidelines for the design of Learning Tasks around existing Metacog-instrumented widgets. In a next tutorial we will see how to create Rubrics and Training Sessions and how to use them to produce Real Time Scores.