Posts tagged higher education

Inspiring Students with Online Discussion

How online discussions helped students understand the importance of class concepts, build connections and improve their writing on exams.

Throughout 12 years of teaching at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, Dr. Kathleen West noticed a growing trend among her students. Students who don’t understand why they need to learn about a topic often express a lack of interest in the course and become disengaged. And it wasn’t just in her classes. As the lead academic advisor in the psychology department, Dr. West heard this concern from colleagues who also struggled to keep their students engaged.

“I think students have always worked this way, but there is a huge trend toward verbalizing it nowadays, that they don’t want to learn it if they don’t understand why they need it” explains Dr. West. “ That’s a big challenge for some of our heavy content disciplines because, you’ll get there eventually, in your higher up classes, but there is X amount of material that [students have] to learn first or that connection piece just isn’t going to make sense. Where I struggle as a professor and I know others do too, is how can we have that [connection] happen at this lower level so that they hang with us and get to that higher level content where it’s really going to make sense to them?”

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Creating An Active Learning Environment in College Classrooms

College enrollment for the 2018 fall academic term in the United States is expected to hit more than 20 million students according to a report from Statista. The rapid enrollment growth is putting a burden directly on professors to innovate in overcrowded lecture halls and meet the needs of Gen Z students.

These overcrowded lectures, where devices can be as much of a distraction as they are a tool, are a challenging setting to engage students. But students who don’t actively engage often lose interest in material and become less willing to apply themselves on assignments and exams. These students are also less likely to have a positive perception of their learning experience, which can be reflected in semester evaluations.

Unfortunately, there isn’t one simple addition or change in class structure that will empower students and encourage them to participate. However, one popular method professors in top colleges and universities are successfully incorporating is active learning. In fact, many different active learning techniques can be tailored to fit any classroom and can lead to increased engagement and a better understanding of class materials.

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Implementing Technology in College Classrooms

When Dr. Kaston Anderson-Carpenter steps in front of his psychology class at Michigan State University, he sees 175 students interacting with laptops, tablets and smartphones in a carefully constructed academic environment. His courses are filled with Gen Z students; a digital generation of non-traditional students who rely on technology to do research, access their textbooks, complete their homework and communicate with their peers and professors.

Dr. Anderson-Carpenter’s classroom is not unusual for professors teaching in the 21st century. Students are no longer thriving in traditional classrooms which expect them to passively absorb information through lectures. Instead, studies show that teaching trends are moving toward app-based learning, microlearning and mobile learning where students can take ownership of their education and consume information in a familiar way. A study from Barnes and Noble College shows that Gen Z students expect digital learning tools to be utilized on-demand with low barriers to access, to create interactive learning environments.  Since this new generation of college students expect classrooms to use digital learning tools, it’s important for professors to consider ways of implementing technology that will not only intrigue students but bring value to their education.

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Introducing New Feature: Critical Debates

We are passionate about building a platform that inspires students to become curious about course material and encourages an academic debate between classmates. With Packback’s new Critical Debates feature, learners can now reply directly to Responses with a Counter Point or Supporting Point. This new feature makes it possible for the entire class to engage in true deep, critical discussions that better mirror a live debate.

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