Reducing Mind-Wandering During Vicarious Learning from an Intelligent Tutoring System

  • Caitlin MillsEmail author
  • Nigel Bosch
  • Kristina Krasich
  • Sidney K. D’Mello
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11625)


Mind-wandering is a ubiquitous phenomenon that is negatively related to learning. The purpose of the current study is to examine mind-wandering during vicarious learning, where participants observed another student engage in a learning session with an intelligent tutoring system (ITS). Participants (N = 118) watched a prerecorded learning session with GuruTutor, a dialogue-based ITS for biology. The response accuracy of the student interacting with the tutor (i.e., the firsthand student) was manipulated across three conditions: Correct (100% accurate responses), Incorrect (0% accurate), and Mixed (50% accurate). Results indicated that Firsthand Student Expertise influenced the frequency of mind-wandering in the participants who engaged vicariously (secondhand students), such that viewing a moderately-skilled firsthand learner (Mixed correctness) reduced the rate of mind-wandering (M = 25.4%) compared to the Correct (M = 33.9%) and Incorrect conditions (M = 35.6%). Firsthand Student Expertise did not impact learning, and we also found no evidence of an indirect effect of Firsthand Student Expertise on learning through mind-wandering (Firsthand Student Expertise → Mind-wandering → Learning). Our findings provide evidence that mind-wandering is a frequent experience during online vicarious learning and offer initial suggestions for the design of vicarious learning experiences that aim to maintain learners’ attentional focus.


Mind-wandering Vicarious learning Intelligent tutoring systems Attention Task-unrelated thought 



This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) DRL 1235958 and IIS 1523091. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caitlin Mills
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nigel Bosch
    • 2
  • Kristina Krasich
    • 3
  • Sidney K. D’Mello
    • 4
  1. 1.University of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  2. 2.University of Illinois at Urbana ChampaignChampaignUSA
  3. 3.University of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  4. 4.University of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA

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