Posts tagged University of North Carolina Charlotte

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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The Value of Discussion

As enrollment and class size increase, professors face more challenges in keeping students engaged. According to a study from the University of Sussex, students in large lectures become passive recipients of information because the fast-paced environment doesn’t give them an opportunity to actively engage with course content. Whether classes are in-person or online, professors are challenged with finding ways to empower students to take ownership over their own learning and relate course material to their lives.

After teaching psychology at the University of North Carolina Charlotte for 12 years, Dr. Kathleen West found that students who weren’t able to see how the material related to their other studies were the most disengaged students in the class. These students, who are often preoccupied with electronic devices and don’t utilize time outside of class to study or prepare for the course, can be challenging to reach.

One way Dr. West pulled her students away from their devices and into the classroom was by incorporating peer discussion. This interaction challenged students to explore the course content and formulate their own viewpoints. Dr. West used discussions to tie in relevant course information and help students make connections between their learnings, current events and their lives. Dr. West found that by opening up discussions and giving students an outlet to participate at their own pace, students engaged more in class and showed more of an interest to learn.  

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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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Student-Driven Discussions with Packback

We are stuck in a fast-answer epidemic. Students have practiced finding the quickest solution, instead of learning how to internalize information and participating in thought-provoking discussions. At Packback, we believe that when students are given an opportunity to be curious and ask the big questions, they’ll be equipped with skills to become future innovators. Packback encourages students to explore classroom materials in a new and interesting way, which makes students more willing to engage and apply their learnings.

What Is Packback?

Packback Questions is a tool used to supplement a professor’s teaching style and help achieve learning objectives such as increased engagement and critical thinking. Packback facilitates online discussion and uses Artificial Intelligence to help professors provide individual coaching, moderate and grade discussions and motivate students throughout the term.

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