How to Help to Ask for Help? Help Request Prompt Structure Influence on Help Request Quantity and Course Retention

Sami Sarsa, Jesper Pettersson, Arto Hellas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference article in proceedingsScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
76 Downloads (Pure)


Full research paper—Feedback and support are at the core of efficient learning. While the effect of feedback has been explored in a multitude of studies, the effect of asking for help and the effect of how that help is asked for is an under-explored area. In this work, we present the results of a randomized controlled trial organized in an introductory programming course for lifelong learners. In the study, we explored the usefulness of different types of help prompts used to guide learners asking for help. Gauging the effect of different combinations of three prompts used to scaffold writing out the help request, (1) "Describe the issue with your program", (2) "Explain how your program works", and (3) "What have you tried to do to resolve the issue", we study how prompts influence learners’ behavior. Using log data collected from the online platform where the prompts were explored, we study how the prompts affect whether learners end up sending a help request instead of simply considering to send one, how the scaffolding prompts affect whether learners send further help requests, and whether the questions have an effect on course retention. Our results show that the help request prompts have an impact on whether learners end up actually writing a help request, which in turn also influences whether the learner will ask for help on another occasion. Further, we observe that help request prompts may have an effect on whether learners figure out a solution to a problem on their own. Alarmingly, we also observe that the prompts can affect how far learners go in a course. Based on our results, we advise teachers and researchers to pay attention into how learners are guided into asking for help.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2022 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE)
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-6654-6244-0
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022
MoE publication typeA4 Conference publication
EventFrontiers in Education Conference - Uppsala, Sweden
Duration: 8 Oct 202211 Oct 2022

Publication series

NameConference proceedings : Frontiers in Education Conference
ISSN (Electronic)2377-634X


ConferenceFrontiers in Education Conference
Abbreviated titleFIE


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