Packback Case Study: Professor Srikripa Chandrasekaran

Srikripa Chandrasekaran is a professor of science at Clemson University. No stranger to the perils of student engagement in and out of the classroom, she decided to utilize Packback Answers this semester in an attempt to keep her students more engaged and actively thinking about the course material taught in class. We had a chance to ask Srikripa a few questions about her experience, which is turning out to be quite positive!


Course Details:

Professor Name: Srikripa Chandrasekaran

University: Clemson University

Subject: Biochemistry

Course using Packback: Essential Elements of Biochemistry

Approx. students per class: 300-400

Feedback from the professor

What makes you passionate about the subject you teach?

Chandrasekaran: “I have always found the interface between chemistry and biology fascinating. Chemistry by definition requires cultivating an imaginative mind, almost bordering on the artistic, as one tries to imagine and understand small particles and how they affect gross functioning of organisms. Today with our in depth understanding of structure and function of macromolecules, knowledge of how they affect onset and progression of disease is an integral part of medicine and biochemistry feeds naturally into health science. From the perspective of students (many of whom are interested in health education), biochemistry is a very interesting topic and is great material for productive discussions.”


What did you previously do to manage participation in your class?

Chandrasekaran:  “I generally teach large classes. On an average I have 300-400 students between all the sections of the course I teach. I have been using online tools such as Socrative and clickers to assess class knowledge. Essentially they help me to get a feel of how well the student population in general is prepared for lectures and how well they are able to understand, process and apply information. In an effort to extend discussion beyond class content, I have had discussion boards open in blackboard where students can post a question and answers outside of class. The disadvantage with using discussion forums for large class sizes is keeping track of class participation, and hence if I wanted to apply a grade to the discussion it would be a difficult task. Packback not only expanded student involvement to more discussion based participation where students can explore areas beyond knowledge presented and discussed in class, but also helped me hugely by keeping track of student participation making it easy for me to apply a grade for the discussions.”


Packback not only expanded student involvement to more discussion based participation where students can explore areas beyond knowledge presented and discussed in class, but also helped me hugely by keeping track of student participation making it easy for me to apply a grade for the discussions.


What were the biggest problems you wanted to solve by implementing Packback in your classroom?

Chandrasekaran: “I wanted to use Packback to try to create a more vibrant and productive discussion platform. The fact that the Packback team helps in grading and keeping track of student participation is very helpful. The Packback team also fields questions relating to technical issues from students, and the weekly log that I receive with a representation of participation along with [Packback gameification features] makes it easier to assign a fair grade. Knowing that their activity and involvement does not go unnoticed keeps the students motivated to continue contributing to meaningful discussions.”


How have you seen the quality of your students participation improve this semester with Packback?  

Chandrasekaran: “Students were a bit shaky at the beginning as they went through the process of registering on Packback and it was a wobbly couple of weeks before they got warmed up to the idea that this platform can serve as a learning tool. Over time I have definitely seen an improvement in the quality of student participation with Packback. More and more students are asking questions that are relevant to the topic, and I am starting to see a reduction in questions that are last minute panic questions about material from a slide just to procure their points. Regardless of the quality of questions, I am happy that questions are being bounced around, as it indicates that students are referring to lecture slides and the textbook on a weekly basis and engaging in some form of learning.”


What has your experience been like in working with members of the Packback team?

Chandrasekaran: “The Packback team has been very friendly and helpful all along the way. All members of the team have been very accommodating, fielding student questions, offering advice and assistance and keeping abreast of my course by scheduling times to talk about the course and check up with road-blocks. I even met a Packback representative on campus, and I had a very nice experience talking about my course and my Packback experience with him. It has been a very pleasant experience, and I am very happy that I had a chance to use Packback for my online class this semester.”


Hot topics in this Study Group

Enzymes & sugars
Identical/fraternal twins


Interesting questions from this study group

What is your opinion on the ethical ramifications of implementing technologies such as the CRISPR-Cas9 for gene editing? On one side of the argument the tool allows scientists to make precise edits to DNA strands, which could lead to treatments for genetic diseases. In contrast this tool could also be used to create so-called “designer babies.”

Are there particular disabilities associated with nonsense mutations?

What function does IBA (indole butyric acid) provide in plants?