From hybrid courses to online modules that students can access to help them succeed in their classes, professors who incorporate technology as a valuable learning tool were applauded at the annual PolyTeach conference.
The 2017 recipients of the Wall of COOL (Celebrating Outstanding Opportunities for Learning) awards shared the ways professors tap into technology to keep students engaged.
For Jae Min Jung, an international business and marketing professor, one of the courses he teaches is “flipped.” Instead of the standard classroom lecture followed by homework assignments, students view video lectures and other material at home and the class period is set aside for discussions, projects and hands-on exercises.
“The students didn’t want to just hear lectures,” he said. “This helps them learn things online before they come to class. It gives them a little bit of a push.”
For Professor Chantal Stieber, her advanced undergraduate and graduate inorganic chemistry students used technology to learn computational chemistry as a tool for scientific research.
“Supported by a National Science Foundation grant to use supercomputers, we got access to a computer in San Diego to run calculations we wouldn’t have been able to do here,” Stieber said. “This course has really had a lasting impact.”
Amanda Marsh, a plant sciences lecturer, used a rubric called quality matters to redesign her insects and civilizations class to make it more accessible to students with different learning thresholds. She created tutorials for students about reading the syllabus and navigating the course. She also used Adobe Presenter to record PowerPoint lectures.
And Joanne Van Boxtell, a professor in the College of Education & Integrative Studies, teaches a hybrid methods course on teaching math to students with disabilities that employs Blackboard program modules and tools to augment course concepts and reading assignments. She uses Adobe Spark Video to introduce herself to students and explain how the course will work. The multimedia-heavy class uses self-paced learning modules, podcasts, videos and case studies, and Blackboard tools such as discussion boards and blogs.
Besides the Wall of COOL ceremony, the April 28 conference included workshops, poster presentations and two panels — one composed of faculty and administrators and the other of students.
During the opening panel, Provost Sylvia Alva, John McGuthry, vice president and chief information officer for the Division of Information Technology, and Mario Sancho-Madriz, professor in the Don B. Huntley School of Agriculture and associate dean at the College of Environmental Design, fielded questions about technology and its role on campus.
Alva said she would like to see software become more accessible to students who are off campus and don’t want to come to a lab. She emphasized the need for a smart planner to be put in place once semester conversion is completed and heralded the university’s recent creation of a course capacity management dashboard.
“This is our first attempt at this,” she said. “It allows us to look historically at patterns of course demands and give the schedulers information about where there is pent-up demand for classes as they schedule forward.”
McGuthry said technology can be used to close the achievement gap, particularly for first-generation students, adding that an interface could be helpful to guide students through their four-year journey.
“If we can engage students in a different way and use technology to present to them the things they need to do, use analytics on the back end to help determine if they fall off the path, how they can get back on the path, we can really make a difference,” he said.
Sancho-Madriz stressed the importance of keeping up with industry standards in technology so students are prepared for the workforce. He added more professional development related to technology is needed for faculty.