Apr 13 2016

UT Austin Augments Lectures by Polling Students in Class

Learn how a chemistry professor employs student response systems in her classroom.

Professors are finding new ways to turn the technology in every student’s pocket into a powerful tool to augment lectures.

During a webinar hosted by Campus Technology, Kate Biberdorf, a chemistry lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, explained how her class has benefited from mobile device polling through REEF Polling, an app from i>Clicker.

Biberdorf's chemistry class operates in a flipped classroom environment, though she's reticent to label it as such. Students read and watch instructional videos before class to familiarize themselves with the subject matter. When they get to the classroom, they understand the basic components of the subject and are prepared to further explore those topics, guided by their professor.

"We use a flipped classroom. We force active learning. We no longer just stand in the front of class and lecture," said Biberdorf. "We do everything we possibly can to force those kids to listen to us and actually practice the material that we're talking about."

During class, Biberdorf issues quizzes on the subject matter she's focusing on, via the app, as a way to gauge her students' level of understanding. Based on the results of these mobile-device polls, Biberdorf can immediately determine whether or not her students grasp the concepts before she moves on. These results are also useful from the students' perspective.

"Immediately the student can see real-time feedback and know where they stand with their peers and where they need to be: Are they on par or behind the curve?”

Such technologies are changing the way that higher education classrooms operate. Student-response systems have been a part of classrooms for a few years and are becoming more commonplace. In 2015, Microsoft launched a similar tool — Bing Pulse in the Classroom — a free online tool that helps make higher education lectures more dynamic.

Pulse keeps detailed analytics for how students respond and is expected to add live video streaming, which would be a big help for distance-learning environments.

Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Thinkstock

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