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Results From A Multi Center Investigation Of The Effect Of Network Latency On Pedagogic Efficacy

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Web-Based Education

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1241.1 - 12.1241.11



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Paper Authors


James Squire Virginia Military Institute

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Dr. James Squire is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Virginia Military Institute. He received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY and served in the army as a Military Intelligence officer during Desert Storm. Although his PhD is in electrical engineering, he completed his doctoral work in a biomedical engineering laboratory at MIT and has interests in analog and digital instrumentation, signal processing, biomechanics, patent litigation, and cardiology. At VMI he teaches analog circuitry, continuous time and discrete time signal processing, and advises a variety of independent study projects.

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Vonda Walsh Virginia Military Institute

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Dr. Vonda K. Walsh is a Professor of Mathematics at Virginia Military Institute. She received her B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, her M.S. in Pure Mathematics from Virginia Tech and her Ph.D. in Biostatistics from the Medical College of Virginia /Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.

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H. Francis Bush Virginia Military Institute

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Dr. H. Francis Bush a Professor of Economics and Business at the Virginia Military Institute. He received a B.A. in Mathematics from the State University of New York at Buffalo, NY, his Masters of Accountancy from The Ohio State University and his PhD from the University of Florida. The focus of his doctoral work was human information processing and is currently finishing studies related to Enron-Anderson. At VMI he teaches Principles and Intermediate Accounting, Financial Statements Analysis, and Statistics.

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Gerald Sullivan Virginia Military Institute

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Dr. Jay Sullivan, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Virginia Military Institute, received his B.S.M.E. from the University of Vermont in 1985, and his M.S.M.E. and Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1987 and 1991 respectively. He has held teaching positions at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and the University of Vermont. Prior to joining the faculty at the Virginia Military Institute in the fall of 2004, Dr. Sullivan was employed by JMAR Inc. where he was involved in research and development of next generation lithography systems for the semiconductor industry.

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Anthony English University of Tennessee-Knoxville

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Dr. Anthony English received a BASc in engineering physics from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby British Columbia, Canada, an MASc in electrical engineering from the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario Canada, and a PhD in Medical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA. He has held positions at the TRIUMF PET-Pion Research Facility in Vancouver Canada, Bell Northern Research in Ottawa Canada, and SONY Corporation in Atsugishi Japan. He is currently an assistant professor at The University of Tennessee in Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering, Knoxville TN USA. His research interests include tissue engineering, thermodynamics of soft material phase transitions and biomedical signal processing.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Results from a Multi-center Investigation of the Effect of Network Latency on Pedagogic Efficacy Interactive web-based learning tools, such as engineering simulations, are becoming increasingly common. Universities find them cost-effective, and students find them convenient. Professors find web-based simulations effective to intuitively convey the complex cause-and-effect relationships that are central in engineering education. For example, moving a slider can be used to interactively see how changing a resistor’s value changes current flow through a current divider. There are many studies investigating the effectiveness of interactive web-based learning materials, yet, little systematic investigation of the pedagogic impact of network delay. This paper, therefore, seeks to quantify the relationship that network latency, or delay, has upon student enjoyment and student comprehension.

An interactive software application was designed purportedly to teach Fourier Analysis concepts, but embeds a secret delay between the time a student moves one of the interactive controls and the time that the screen updates. Different versions of the application were designed, each identical except for the delay. Students were randomly assigned application versions, ensuring double-blind test conditions. Students used the application while completing a short guided lesson that used the Socratic Method to intuitively teach Fourier Analysis. After completing the tutorial questions, which provide an objective assessment of student comprehension, students self-rated their comprehension and enjoyment, and recorded their program version number which encoded the delay. The data was least-squares fit to several different functions with varying degrees of freedom and residuals were computed.

Data involving 281 students from four universities and one high school using eight equally- spaced delays from 0 to 420 ms was analyzed. A two-part piecewise linear function was found to have both a low number of degrees of freedom and low sum of residuals that suggest a “knee” in pedagogic efficiency exists. One knee at a 300ms delay describes self-rated comprehension and self-rated enjoyment tolerance to delays. A second knee exists at 60ms 30ms and describes objective comprehension.

The difference in knee location suggests that our learning is maximally effective for cause-and- effect relationships when delay is minimized, but that our psychological tolerance for delay is much higher. This conflict between competence perception and objective reality impacts university information technology infrastructure and pedagogical software design. This is especially the case for the emerging field of long-distance web education. These studies expose flaws in perception-based assessment of these areas. Continued studies are planned to assess category-specific differences such as age, gender, and major.


The use of web-based learning tools is continuing to increase today as well as the promotion of long-distance learning and assessment1. Many standardized tests, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) can be taken online. Universities are similarly increasing online course offerings, and some have offered distance-learning degrees

Squire, J., & Walsh, V., & Bush, H. F., & Sullivan, G., & English, A. (2007, June), Results From A Multi Center Investigation Of The Effect Of Network Latency On Pedagogic Efficacy Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1824

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