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Making Lectures More Interactive

Bruce Hay, a biology teacher at the California Institute of Technology, has recently come up with a way to integrate more participation into his classroom and, as a result, seen an increase in the average grades of his students.

He started using an app called SKIES (Su-Kam Intelligent Education Systems) that allows students to create an interconnected web of knowledge about a topic that a professor is teaching. Hay states that “if you don’t have participation, then you’re not getting any feedback on what students are learning…It’s just a half an hour monologue without really knowing that you’re getting through to anyone.” He also explains that it is important that the students become more interactive instead of a passive audience.


Instructors and students are able to post class materials that are linked together, becoming a “class tree” (Credit: Campus Technology)


Anyone can use the app – university students and professors, or K-12 students and teachers. The material that students can post on SKIES can range from text, pictures, drawings, audio clips, links or videos. This also lets students learn from each other rather than just the teacher being the sole source of knowledge in the class.

While Hay is lecturing in his classroom, you will be able to see yellow bubbles pop up on the powerpoint he is presenting behind him. Those bubbles are the questions and comments that students are leaving on the app. Students are also able to thumbs up or thumbs down slides; green slides will have a thumbs up, while red slides have a thumbs down. Hay will be able to see which slides students were able to grasp versus which might have been confusing. Some instructors worry, however, that students who post things onto the app during a live lecture will become distracted. Some professors then ask that the students post only after the lecture, as students already seem to be multitasking enough during class.

More information on this topic can be found on the main article here.

Penn State Technology Allows Faculty and Students to Build Their Own Textbooks from OER

Faculty, staff and graduate students at Penn State University cleverly came up with a way for other faculty and students to create their own online textbooks through a tool called BBookX.

Users would simply have to type in keywords related to their subject material, then BBookX will gather information from open resources regarding those keywords. Since this tool is only in its pre-release state, it currently runs on top of Wikipedia. However, once it has reached a wider release, it will support more Open Educational Resources (OER) repositories. Kyle Bowen, director of Education Technology Services in TLT, assures that “expanding future use will be a key part of our success”


The tool allows students and faculty to create textbooks chapter by chapter. Once the resources have been loaded, users can rearrange the material however they like through a click and drag interface

A huge advantage of this tool is that students will save a lot of money from textbook costs and they will be able to personalize their learning through building the textbooks themselves.

Although the primary focus of the tool is towards college students, K-12 students and faculty are able to use it as well. A public demo is not yet available, however developers are searching for “schools and organizations that would be interested in partnering and supporting future research.” There is yet to be a confirmed release date.

For more information on this topic, visit the article here.

Five Key Tips to being a Successful Online Student

Introducing IMD at UWB 061413-2Students enrolled in online courses often find it difficult to balance their academic, social, and occupational lives. As such, we at UWB LT have created this list of five key tips on how to be a successful digital learner.

You may find that these steps are also useful for being a successful traditional student, but they are especially critical for online students to succeed. (more…)

Examining the Future of Public Higher Education: The Pros and Cons of Online, Hybrid, and Face-to-Face Class Formats

In a recent report written by the University of Washington’s Office of the Provost, President Michael Young expressed his vision for the University to become “Tomorrow’s University Today”, not only by adapting and responding to an ever-present change in education, but also by leading the change to explore new and exciting methods of teaching and learning that have yet to be discovered. This “change” has come in the form of online and hybrid class formats that have been adopted and utilized in an effort to provide a more digital, convenient, and innovative alternative for students to pursue their education at the University of Washington.

Read More!

Learning to Go Hybrid

The Hybrid Course Development Institute (HCDI) at the University of Washington Bothell is in full swing as ten faculty members from S&T, CUSP, IAS, Business, CSS and Nursing work on developing a peer-reviewed course syllabus for a hybrid format class.

Hybrid learning is broadly defined as a course that blends online and face-to-face delivery so that face-to-face time is reduced, with 30% to 70% delivered online. So, for instance, a course that traditionally meets twice a week face-to-face would instead meet once a week face-to-face, with the rest of the course online or out of class.

The HCDI is 10 weeks long, delivered in a hybrid format with 3 to 4 face-to-face sessions, and taught by Andreas Brockhaus, David Goldstein, Rebecca Bliquez and Ian Porter. Topics covered include:

  • Benefits and challenges of hybrid learning
  • Creating effective online discussions
  • Creating online assignments
  • Using the Community of Inquiry model to determine what works best online and face-to-face
  • Assessment strategies
  • Technology tools and resources

We hope to be offering the HCDI again next year. If you’re interested in reading more about the HCDI and its effectiveness, you can read the attached conference paper written by the HCDI team and recently published by the Association for Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE Conference Proceedings paper)