In Professor Linchi Kwok’s Hotel, Advertising and PR class, a call for students to get ready to take a quiz prompts them to pull out smartphones, not pen and paper.
Lectures that once would have been delivered from a podium at the front of a class are now opportunities for Kwok to roam around with his iPad, pulling up the results of instant polls that students take on their phones or comments they make on his social media pages and displaying them on multiple screens around the class.
And then there are the guest speakers he connects with by using Skype.
“I see technology as something to enhance the experience,” says Kwok, who has been teaching at the Collins College of Hospitality Management since 2013. “I don’t use it because I have to. If polling, for example, is a good way to engage, then I will use it.”
In an increasingly more digital world, Kwok is one of dozens of professors at Cal Poly Pomona using technology to augment the learning process. He was one of the recipients of the 2014 Wall of COOL (Celebrating Outstanding Online Learning) awards, which honors online and hybrid course development by university faculty.
The program also recognizes faculty members who have used eLearning resources or have attended a workshop or institute to grasp how they can integrate technology into the classroom.
During a recent class, Kwok posted responses to a Twitter question he posed at the start of the quarter asking students what they would like to learn by the end of the course. The results flashed across the screen. He posted a poll of students on business versus leisure travelers. He displayed scenarios related to hotels overbooking rooms on the screens and asked students to share what they would do in those situations.
“It’s more engaging, so they can remember the material better,” he says. “Because everything is captured, they can always review the material later.”
Mechanical engineering Professor Paul Nissenson, who also made the Wall of COOL, says for his introductory computer programming course he flipped the process of teaching so that students learn the material before class by watching videos he posts on YouTube, in which he talks them through examples.
In class, Nissenson gives students a quiz to ensure they watch the videos, then puts students in teams of three to complete a set of tasks. Prizes are awarded to the teams that finish fastest.
“I’m doing next to no lecturing for this particular class,” he says. “You see the students teaching each other and it can be really intense. I am finding I am enjoying this style of instruction more.”
In Nissenson’s other courses, he uses PowerPoint to present the material in class and records the presentation, then uploads the recording to his YouTube channel the same day. He recalled having one student with a serious illness who was not able to attend class but kept up because everything was accessible on YouTube.
“I think technology opens a lot of opportunities,” he says. “People nowadays are used to accessing content anywhere at any time. I don’t want learning to be restricted to just the classroom. I want students to be able to learn the material when they are more mentally ready for it.”
Professor Laurie Starkey, who teaches organic chemistry, says her use of technology in the classroom goes back more than 15 years ago when she purchased a digital camera that captured images on a floppy disc.
Also a Wall of Cool honoree, Starkey says she has used online quizzes to help students prepare for organic chemistry labs since 1999. More recently, she has developed online prelab tutorials as well.
“The online tutorial extends beyond the class to get them immersed in the topic and fully prepared for lab,” she says. “Even the best students are starving for information. It’s very frustrating to come to class feeling unprepared.”
Starkey also uses remote-controlled clickers so that students can vote on the answers for multiple-choice questions. The voting helps the students feel more invested because they want to know if they got the question or right, she says.
Multimedia and technology helps improve learning, she adds.
“Any multimedia, from audio to visual, it just triggers different parts of your brain rather than just learning passively,” she says. “All humans learn better with multimedia, and technology lets you use more multimedia.”
Students in Kwok’s class say it has definitely made learning more fun.
“One of the really cool things about the class is that he does a lot of class surveys, real-life surveys,” says Andy Rodriguez, a fourth-year hospitality major. “Because it is more interactive with students, I believe that helps a lot.”
Classmate Alexandra Murcia, also a fourth-year hospitality major, said it makes sense to have more technology in the classroom.
“It’s so in tune with the millennial generation and it engages us more than a traditional class,” she says. “It makes you excited to come to class.”