In this work we are investigating the learning benefits of e-Learning principles (a) within the context of a web-based intelligent tutor and (b) in the “wild,” that is, in real classroom (or homework) usage, outside of a controlled laboratory. In the study described in this paper, we focus on the benefits of politeness, as originally formulated by Brown and Levinson and more recently studied by Mayer and colleagues. We test the learning benefits of a stoichiometry tutor that provides polite problem statements, hints, and error messages as compared to one that provides more direct feedback. Although we find a small, but not significant, trend toward the polite tutor leading to better learning gains, our findings do not replicate that of Wang et al., who found significant learning gains through polite tutor feedback. While we hypothesize that an e-Learning principle such as politeness may not be robust enough to survive the transition from the lab to the “wild,” we will continue to experiment with the polite stoichiometry tutor.
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