Introducing Clusters: Helping large lecture halls feel small

The Packback team has rolled out a new feature called Clusters to help give every student the same great experience even regardless of their class size. Large lecture halls of hundreds (or thousands!) of students can now guarantee that every student can have their voice heard and their questions answered.


Determining the Optimal Community Size

The Packback team took a deep dive look at the 12,000 students that have used Packback Questions over the past year and compared each student’s satisfaction rate with the enrollment of their class and the average number of questions asked per week in their community. We were able to determine that a class size of between 50 and 100 students resulted in the highest student satisfaction and curiosity.

Packback’s new feature, Clusters, replicate the ideal, “small class experience” within even the largest of classes, while still providing students the best of what a large classes offer.

Clusters create the “small class experience” by breaking large classes (over 100 students) into the ideal number of smaller groups, and then showing every student questions from that filtered “Cluster” group in their main feed.


How Clusters are Created

When a community’s registration passes 100 students, every student begins to be assigned randomly into their own Cluster of no less than 50 students and no more than 100. No matter how many students register–whether it is 100 or 1200–the optimal number of Clusters is always created to ensure that every student is in an ideally-sized Cluster.

Since students are randomly assigned and resorted, Clusters allow students to get the benefit of being in a large class; a wide variety of perspectives. With Clusters, students’ discussions don’t have to be limited to the few people they sit next to in class.


How Clusters work within a Community

Students can quickly toggle between “My Feed” (a collection of the 50 most recent questions from other students in their Cluster) or “View All” (every question that has ever been asked in their community).

Pinned Questions” are visible at the top of the “View All” view, regardless of a student’s random Cluster, so no one ever misses important question ‘pinned’ by the professor.

All students can quickly access “The best-of-the-best” from their entire class by clicking into the “Featured Tab“, a rolling history of the best moderator-selected questions in a Community across all Clusters.

For classes with less than 100 students, no Clusters are created (and the toggle between “My Feed” and “View All” is hidden). This allows even the smallest of classes to have quick access to their entire Community’s question history, so there is never a shortage of great questions to answer!


The Benefits of Clusters for Student Engagement

Clusters increase the time that a question stays on the front page and helps every student have the chance to have their questions answered. It takes time to ask a really great, well-thought-out question, and if those great questions don’t receive an answer it makes it less likely that a student will want to take time to post a great question in the future. Clusters help make sure that those great questions get seen and answered, so everyone’s voice can be heard on Packback Questions.

No matter whether we’re working with a 10 person class or a 1,000 person class, Packback can now guarantee that every student has the same opportunity to follow their curiosity and participate in deep discussions with their classmates.

As class sizes continue to rise and as more classes move to large-scale “Hybrid” class environments (combination of online and offline components), Clusters will help Higher Education Institutions create a fair, engaging and curiosity-filled experience for all of their students.

Interested in bringing academic discussions to your classroom? Fill out the form below to book a demo with one of our Strategy Consultants!