Introducing the Sparks Feature on Packback

Today, the Packback team released a new feature on the Packback Questions platform, called Sparks. Sparks work a bit like upvotes or likes on other social platforms, but with a much more specific (and important!) purpose.

Sparks are given to posts which truly “Sparked your Curiosity”, to show appreciation to the original writer and help the community recognize the most curious posts. Sparks also help other students recognize posts that have been inspiring to their classmates, and gives professors valuable insight into what their students are most curious about.

Why “Sparks”?

Our product team closely monitors the feedback we receive throughout the semester, and one of the most common requests from students to have a way to recognize and show appreciation for their classmates’ great posts. We also heard a recurring theme of students wondering if their posts were being read, and wishing for a way to receive more feedback from their classmates. Without a feature that offered a way to show appreciation for a post…the writer would never know the impact of their question or response.

With the introduction of Sparks, students and professors now have a lighter way to show their appreciation for the posts on the platform which really sparked their curiosity and made them think.

Sparks Allowance

Screenshot showing the main Curiosity Feed of a Community, which now includes a new module that shows a user their stats in the community, including their available Sparks.

Unlike likes or upvotes on other social sites, the Sparks on Packback are unique because they have a limit to how many can be given each week.

Every week, all members of a community on Packback receive a new “allowance” of Sparks which appear in the brand new Community Stats module (shown above) in the sidebar of the community as “Available Sparks”. This helps ensure that there is real value behind both giving and receiving a Spark.

Any unused Sparks “expire” every week on Monday at 2AM CST, and a new allowance is granted. Sparks expiring helps to encourage students to give out their sparks weekly instead of saving them up.

Viewing Sparks

Screenshot showing a popup that shows the names and avatars of users who gave a specific post a "Spark".

To see how many Sparks a post has received, simply look at the new label (indicated with the Sparks icon, a lightbulb with a heart-shaped filament) in the top right-hand corner of each post in the feed. Clicking on the Sparks label will also open a popup showing who in the community “Sparked” the post.

To view how many Sparks a learner has received, navigate either to the Learner Leaderboard of a specific community (to see how many Sparks they’ve received in that community) or to their User Profile (to see how many Sparks they’ve received across the platform).

Giving Sparks

Screenshot showing the button for giving a post a Spark, with a tooltip showing the caption, "This Sparked My Curiosity".

To give a Spark to a question or response, click on the post to navigate to its thread. From the Question thread page, users can add a Spark by clicking the button that says “Add Spark” (shown above). When a student or professor clicks the Spark button (assuming they have Available Sparks to give), the button will change state to “Sparked” and the count of Sparks on the post will increase.

Receiving Sparks

Screenshot showing the "Sparks" Notifications page, where users can see all of their received Sparks.

When a student or professor receives a new Spark, it will appear in the new “Notifications” page which shows the entire history of the Sparks that a user has ever received. The Spark count for the user on the Learner Leaderboard and Profile will also increase!