Gut instinct: Creating scientific theories with online learners

Vineet Pandey, Amnon Amir, Justine Debelius, Embriette R. Hyde, Tomasz Kosciolek, Rob Knight, Scott Klemmer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Learners worldwide collectively spend millions of hours per week testing their skills on assignments with known answers. Might some of this time fruitfully be spent posing and exploring novel questions? This paper investigates an approach for learners to contribute scientific ideas. The Gut Instinct system embodies this approach, hosting online learning materials and invites learners to collaboratively brainstorm potential influences on people's microbiome. A between-subjects experiment compared the performance of participants who engaged in just learning, just contributing, or a combination. Participants in the learning condition scored highest on a summative test. Participants in both the contribution and combined conditions generated novel, useful questions; there was not a significant difference between the two. Though participants in the combined condition both learned and contributed, this setting did not exhibit an additive benefit, such as better learning in the combined condition. These results highlight the promise and difficulty of double-bottom-line learning experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCHI 2017 - Proceedings of the 2017 ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Subtitle of host publicationExplore, Innovate, Inspire
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781450346559
StatePublished - May 2 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event2017 ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2017 - Denver, United States
Duration: May 6 2017May 11 2017

Publication series

NameConference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings


Conference2017 ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Citizen science
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Online learning
  • Social computing systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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