The LectureTools Blog

LectureTools Acquired by Echo360

Posted by Chelsea Jenkins on Wed, November 07, 2012


An Active Learning Platform

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In 2005 Dr. Perry Samson started LectureTools at the University of Michigan as a research project with one goal: to revolutionize the classroom and to engage students with their laptops and cellphones, regardless of class size. 

LectureTools launched commercially in August 2011 and has since been adopted by professors at over 30 universities and colleges across the United States, Canada, and Asia. Today, we are excited to announce that we are joining forces with Echo360, whose lecture capture technology is in use at over 600 schools across the globe and backed by Steve Case's Revolution Growth.

LectureTools: An Active Learning Platform on Vimeo.

Echo360 provides not only resources, but also a like-minded vision and talented employees that will help us achieve our long-term goal of building an active learning platform that revolutionizes the way people teach and learn using technology in and out of the classroom. This is not the end of LectureTools, rather, a new beginning, and current accounts will not be affected. LectureTools will always exist and it will continue to improve as a stand alone product. It will also be developing an integrated solution with lecture capture and other active learning features. 

We would like to extend a special thank you to our early adopters, who have given us amazing feedback and their continued support. We look forward to continuing our work with you and the Echo360 team.


To a new beginning, 

The LectureTools team.


Samson is also a co-founder of the Weather Underground, which sold in the summer to the Weather Channel, with a group of former students. LectureTools also sprouted with a dedicated group of recently graduated U-M students including Jason Aubrey, Bret Squire and Sharanyan Ravi. Aubreyco-founder of LectureTools, joins Echo360 as a product manager while Squire and Ravi join as developers. 

We would also like to say thank you to a few key players in the LectureTools story – University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Michigan TechArb, University of Michigan Office of Technology Transfer, The National Science Foundation, our advisor Jim Sterken, and the instructors and students who have helped us grow.



Make your class more interactive: click below and become the next addition to our team!




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Topics: Online Education, LectureTools News, New Features, classroom engagement strategies, emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Teaching with Technology, Student-Instructor Interaction, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Classroom Response Systems, Educational Technology, instructor interaction, instructor communication, student engagement, student engagement strategies, Student Response Systems, student response, Flipped Instruction, educational networking, The Flipped Classroom

A Supplement of a LectureTools Testimony

Posted by Chelsea Jenkins on Tue, October 30, 2012

LectureTools: An engaging presentation tool to use in the classroom

Jim Barbour, associate professor of economics, uses LectureTools in his introductory-level courses.

Jim Barbour, chair of the economics department and associate professor of economics, uses LectureTools in his introductory-level courses.


While searching for an alternative to clickers to use in his classes, Jim Barbour, chair of the economics department and associate professor of economics, stumbled upon LectureTools.

Run by a five-person team in Ann Arbor, Mich.,LectureTools is an engaging, web-based program that allows instructors to create interactive presentations.

“I was looking for something that was more robust,” Barbour said. “Think of [LectureTools] as a combination of clickers, Facebook and Twitter all rolled into one.”

Special Features

By uploading preexisting PowerPoint presentations to LectureTools, instructors can enhance classroom materials by incorporating multiple-choice, short-answer or ordering questions, as well as images and videos onto slides. Students can access presentations on their own devices by logging in to the program.

“All of this is like a clicker on steroids,” Barbour said. “But now, you don’t have to keep track of the clickers, and you don’t have to charge them up.”

Instructors can incorporate multiple-choice, short-answer or ordering questions, as well as images and videos onto slides.

Instructors can enhace classroom materials by incorpoarting multiple-choice, short-answer or ordering questions, as well as images and videos onto slides.


LectureTools is free for instructors, Barbour said, while students must pay a flat $15 fee at the beginning of the semester.

LectureTools works best on laptops, tablets and smartphones, Barbour said, though students can still participate if he or she has a mobile phone with texting capabilities.

Barbour said out of the seventy-odd students he has had in his LectureTools-based classes, only one did not have a laptop, tablet, smartphone or phone with texting capabilities. Because of this, Barbour is lending his Kindle to the student.

“There are places [students can] checkout [laptops] from the school, so I’ve run into that once out of 74 students,” Barbour said. “It’s probably going to be a problem less and less as we go forward.”

Students can control the view of their individual screens, take notes on slides, mark slides as confusing, bookmark slides to review later and direct questions to instructors by typing inquiries into a comment box.

 Students can control the view of their individual screens, take notes on slides, mark slides as confusing, bookmark slides to review later and direct questions to instructors by typing inquiries into a comment box.


While logged in to LectureTools, students can control the view of their individual screens. Students can take notes on the slides, and because the program is web-based, students’ notes are saved online and can be accessed later.

Freshman Michelle Rich, a student in Barbour’s introductory-level economics class, said she likes the flexibility of LectureTools in that it allows her to control what slide is displayed on her screen. She said she likes the interactivity of the technology too, because it helps her to better learn the material.

“LectureTools is helpful, but I am still adapting to this new way of learning,” she said. “I really like how my professor asks us questions through LectureTools because it tests us while we’re learning.”

Students can mark presentation slides as confusing, and they can bookmark slides to review later. Further, students can direct questions to instructors by typing them into a comment box, and professors receive those inquiries instantly.

“It’s another way for me to communicate with the class, and that’s really what I’m interested in because at the core, we are storytelling creatures,” Barbour said. “This allows me to tailor the story as I go to match what the class seems to need. Any good instructor always does that.”

LectureTools records all student activity and converts the data into a report, which is sent to an instructor approximately 20 minutes after class is over.

Students in Barbour's economics class collaborate on a short-answer question.

 Students in Barbour's introductory-level economics class collaborate on a short-answer question.

By Sam Parker 



To use LectureTools and start increasing engagement in  YOUR classroom click here:



Topics: Mobile Devices for Education, classroom engagement strategies, emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Teaching with Technology, Student-Instructor Interaction, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Large Class, Classroom Response Systems, Educational Technology, instructor interaction, student engagement, student engagement strategies, Student Response Systems, Student Participation, educational networking, Enriching Scholarship Conference, Laptops in Education, Learning Outcomes, The Flipped Classroom

How I Use My iPad as a College Student and Educator

Posted by Chelsea Jenkins on Mon, September 24, 2012

2012 09 11 1331

I'm currently working on my post-baccalaureate degree in speech language pathology, and I also work around 40 hours a week as both a freelance writer and early literacy tutor. I rely heavily on technology to help me accomplish my academic and professional goals. I can't imagine life without it. My first college experience, in the late 90s, was much different from my current one. I used the computers in the school library to type up my papers, but that was the extent of how I used technology. Now I spend what seems like all day on my iPhone, iPad, and laptop.

Technology can definitely be a distraction at times, but it's mostly a lifesaver. I don't think I'd be able to work and study as effectively as I do without the help of my laptop and iPad. My iPad has been a particularly useful tool over the last couple of years. I use it in a million different ways in my day-to-day life. On an average day, here are some of the ways I use my iPad as a student, writer, and educator:

1. I check my class assignments on Blackboard while riding the subway to school to make sure I've completed them all. (I usually have).

2. I use my Evernote app to take notes in class and organize those notes. When I know a lecture is particularly important or just don't have the energy to take notes, I record what my professors are saying with a neat little app called Audiolio.

3. In between classes, I'll read eTextbooks for my courses. Unfortunately, not all my textbooks are available in eTextbook format. So, I do have to put my iPad aside every once in a while and crack open an old-fashioned book.

4. All of my classes are scheduled in the mornings. When I'm done with them I ride home on the subway and use my iPad to reply to emails from my editors/freelance supervisors. I also use Evernote to write out ideas I have for various writing projects.

5. I switch over to my laptop and complete writing assignments for work when I get home. Once I'm done, I'll usually spend some time on my iPad, going over my class notes for the day. I also frequently use my iPad to peruse SLP job postings. I'll be graduating this December, and I like to keep track of what sort of job openings there are.

6. At this point in my day, it's usually almost time to meet up with one of the kindergarten, first, or second grade students I tutor. I might call my boyfriend or one of my friends on the way to the subway to catch up and make dinner plans or other plans for the evening.

7. On the subway, I go over my lesson plan for whichever student I'll be meeting with that day.

8. I meet up with my student. We typically read and re-read a print book together and then read a fun, interactive book together on my iPad. This week I'm reading The Cat in the Hatwith all of my kids. This classic book totally comes alive on the iPad. If you have or teach young children, you have to check it out!

9. Oftentimes, I'll end the lesson with my students by playing some sort of literacy game on my iPad and practicing sight words on digital flashcards (on my iPad, of course). I typically use the ABC Pocket Phonics app with my kindergarten students to practice their letters and signs. And I'll use apps like Early Reader and K12 Timed Reading Practice Lite with my older kiddos to work on their fluency and more advanced phonics skills. The young learners I work with pretty much love everything we do on my iPad, and I truly believe all of them have benefited from using this technology.

10. Once I'm done tutoring, I usually take a break from my iPad. I plug it in, and leave it alone for a while. I might meet up with my boyfriend or friends for dinner and usually spend some time unwinding with them at the end of the day. Before bed, I might research different literacy and speech therapy apps. I get excited about all the cool apps I'll be able to use once I officially start working in speech therapy, and I drift off to sleep, oftentimes still holding my iPad.

As you can probably tell, I'm glued to my iPad and technology in general throughout the day. As a student or educator, how do you use your iPad to optimize what you do? Let us know!


Angelita Williams is a freelance writer, student, and educator who frequently contributes to She strives to instruct her readers and enrich their lives and welcomes you to contact her at if you have any questions or comments.


Lecturing with an iPad eBook

Control Your Lecture with an iPad

Wander any place in your classroom and still control your slides! Download our free eBook and learn how to use your iPad to untether yourself from the podium and start teaching more interactively.

Topics: emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Teaching with Technology, Student-Instructor Interaction, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Educational Technology, instructor communication, student engagement, student engagement strategies, educational networking, Apple iPad in Education

How Tech Changed My University Classroom

Posted by Chelsea Jenkins on Thu, September 06, 2012



As a (now contentedly former) English professor at a large public university in the American South, and, obviously, a longtime student myself before that, I have seen firsthand how technology transformed the classroom...and then transformed it again. This is a big mistake we make when thinking about technological change: thinking that the world can be divided into “before” and “after” a given technology, and that once the latest thing is ubiquitous, we’ll get to stay still. Unfortunately this is not the case, for it’s not one shift that makes the difference but multiple simultaneous, overlapping, and qualitatively different revolutions that may soon be made obsolete themselves.

When I was a child, we still watched filmstrips in class. Yes, actual strips of actual film. I remember watching the first President Bush’s inauguration on TV in a classroom, though I can’t remember if it was cable yet or simply broadcast. Then video infiltrated classrooms, with the beloved clunky TV cart that heralded a day off from book-based study (Marshall McLuhan once warned that introducing television into education would blow the classroom apart -- I’m not so sure he wasn’t right).

Thanks to the famed visionary forward-looking genius of Apple (and/or their self-serving canniness), green screen and then full-color Macs proliferated in my schools. I was in college when cell phones became popular, but few people had laptops.

By the time I started teaching, nearly every student had a laptop, though as those years went on, fewer and fewer bothered to bring it to class. Why? I wish I could say it was because of their desire to put away anything that might distract from my words of wisdom.

In truth, the cellphone and laptop had merged, and their iPhones were now a one-stop shop for research, socializing, and pure time-wasting. We now have the iPad and, interestingly, tablets seem to be trending smaller and iPhones bigger. Will the two products merge? Where does our future lie, and what does it mean for education?

My most recent classrooms featured computer podiums hooked up to a projector. This was moderately useful in my Introduction to Fiction class, where I mainly used it to call up YouTube videos so that authors like James Baldwin, Ray Bradbury, and Vladimir Nabokov could explain their work in person. I also found biographical documentaries of writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and James Joyce, who did not live to see the television era, let alone get grandfathered into YouTube.

But it was the other literature class I was teaching, Introduction to Drama, where technology really brought the subject alive. Unlike prose fiction, after all, drama is not in its essential form a “text,” but is meant as a blueprint to be interpreted and brought to life. So after reading, say, Euripides in our anthology of plays, I could show my students a slideshow on the development of tragedy, a documentary clip demonstrating the spatial quality and remarkable acoustics of the Theater of Dionysus in Athens, and four or five different interpretations of the same scene from Medea taken from live and cinematic versions in English, Greek, and Japanese. This truly showcased the mind-blowing potential of the wired classroom, and all that was missing was an interactive element to make it more hands-on for my students.


Stephanie Brooks is a freelance writer and blogger who mostly enjoys covering all things education, including at, but also regarding traditional brick-and-mortar institutions. When she's not writing, she can be found at the gym working out to Zumba and cooking healthy recipes at home. She welcomes your feedback.


Lecturing with an iPad eBookFree eBook: Lecturing with an iPad

Students are far less likely to stray when you are able to roam the aisles. Download our free eBook and learn how to use your iPad to untether yourself from the podium and start teaching more interactively.

Topics: Apple, classroom engagement strategies, emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Teaching with Technology, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Classroom Response Systems, Educational Technology, instructor interaction, instructor communication, student engagement, student engagement strategies, Flipped Instruction, Guest Blogger

The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Flipped Classroom

Posted by Chelsea Jenkins on Wed, August 29, 2012



The "flipped classroom" has been making waves in the educational world for some time now. With the introduction of the Khan Academy, the concept of the flipped classroom has become one of the hottest debates in the academic world among primary educators, professors, and administrators alike. As education-based technology and online platforms continue to grow and improve, more and more devices, programs, and concepts are entering the educational world and shaking things up. Where at one time the concept of online learning, computer-based assignments, and the virtual classroom were scoffed at, today online education and technology in the classroom are top priorities for schools, teachers, and researchers.


Within our increasingly digital world, most of us agree that education and academia must respond to the changing atmosphere of society. By and large, we accept that online learning and certain academic technologies are worthwhile. However, with all the hoopla over the Khan Academy and the flipped classroom, there remain both positives and negatives to the approach.


The Advantages

Many of the advantages of the flipped classroom have been covered throughout the blogosphere and elsewhere. There are many things to praise about the concept of the flipped classroom. With positive results from many teachers and school districts throughout the country, there's no denying that the approach can (and has been) successful in certain cases. Students are able to approach material and take it in at their own speed. By covering lecture material at home and from a video-based platform, students can privately view the material. This allows them to approach things at their own pace without worry of peers noticing them moving slower or faster. Students can stop, pause, rewind, and fast forward material so that they can examine things in their own way.


By taking the lecture portion of the classroom home with them, students are able to utilize their teachers' one-on-one attention more successfully in the classroom. Students sit through lecture, gather questions, and prepare themselves for the day with the teacher to tackle "homework". Because the actual exercises are done in the classroom rather than at home with this model, students have their teacher available for questions with problems when they occur.


The flipped classroom also allows teaching to adapt more easily to the different teaching styles that individual students may be most successful with. By putting lectures in a video format, students can listen to the lesson and watch the video illustrate the lesson. Of course, this largely depends on how successful the actual video lecture is. You want a lecture (like the Khan videos) that explains concepts verbally, but also draws them out in images and pictures. This provides adequate learning opportunities for verbal learners and for visual learners. With in-classroom lecturing, the visual aspect of lecturing can be significantly more difficult to accomplish.


The Disadvantages

Of course, as with anything, there are going to be some disadvantages to the flipped structure of learning as well. Just as classroom lecturing works better for some and doesn't work for others, the flipped classroom method is not going to accommodate every individual perfectly. The biggest set back today to the flipped classroom method is that not all students and schools have access to technologies that can really work for this method.


Students from lower income areas and lower income families may not have access to the computers and internet technologies that the flipped classroom requires. The structure really hinges on every student having personal access to his or her own personal device. This simply is not the case for every student and every school district. Students who do not have personal home computers or access to the internet would be forced to use public computers at a library or at the school. This, to some degree, eliminates the personal and private experience of taking in the lecture. What makes having lectures as homework so powerful is that students can do it on their own time and in their own way. At a library computer or school computer time limits typically exist and access can be limited if it is busy. This is problematic.


Another downside to the idea of the flipped classroom that many people bring up is the fact that students would be spending all of their "homework time" plugged-in in front of a computer screen. Not only do not all students do well with learning from a screen, but this also adds to a student's time in front of a screen and sitting sedentary. While this concern isn't singular to the flipped classroom, the teaching concept doesn't help our young students to get up and get away from their computers, televisions, and iPods.

Flip your classroom with LectureTools! Check out one of our flipped classrooms by signing in as a student:


PW: 2012

Mariana Ashley is a blogger and freelance writer who often writes for about online college life. Mariana is passionate about all things education and loves writing about the latest trends in the world of academia. She welcomes comments via email at

Topics: Learning Styles, classroom engagement strategies, emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Teaching with Technology, Student-Instructor Interaction, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Classroom Response Systems, Educational Technology, instructor interaction, student engagement, student engagement strategies, student response, Flipped Instruction, Guest Blogger, Learning Outcomes, The Flipped Classroom

Rethinking the Value of Learning Styles in the Classroom

Posted by Erin Klein on Fri, December 23, 2011

learning styles

Recent research has revealed that, despite each person having unique thinking patterns, our brains are much more similar than we originally believed. Still, the concept of distinct learning styles persists: many educators subscribe to the idea that each student has a distinct learning style that should be approached in an equally distinct way.

An alternative to learning-style-based teaching

Scientists are still debating the existence of learning styles, but combining both audio and visual learning tools in the classroom has proven to increase student engagement because it adds variety to the learning environment. Using a variety of technological teaching and learning tools like videos, message boards and learning games can keep students engaged and offer them a way to have fun with their lessons.

In addition to variety, interaction is also an important learning tool because it allows students to look at the concepts they are learning from multiple angles. For example: a student may think he understands the Pythagorean Theorem, but another student may approach it with a question that he had not thought of before. By bringing distinct minds together and allowing them to work through a problem together from different approaches, learning can become more engaging and effective.

The role of technology in teaching and learning

Technology has made it much easier for students and teachers to reach goals, regardless of location or distance. Many online degree programs are able to keep students engaged while allowing them to interact with one another through digital platforms. In many cases, students can choose from several teaching mediums, such as images, graphs, audio recordings, and interactive reading materials. By stimulating the mind through each of these approaches, students are more likely to comprehend and retain the information more effectively than they would if they were sitting in a full lecture hall with little or no interaction with the material, the instructor, or their classmates.

Although learning tools like these can be used to engage students enrolled in online learning programs, they can also be used effectively in physical settings. Large lecture halls and classrooms can benefit dramatically from the use of digital learning tools, which can allow students to submit questions to the instructor and their classmates, while also using hands-on software to put their knowledge to the test.

For example: a group of 300 students is taking a statistics class with one instructor. It would be impossible for an instructor to accommodate the learning preferences of each individual student without the help of digital tools. However, with interactive graphing tools on their laptops, access to lecture notes, and a comprehensive messaging system that enhances communication with their peers and the instructor, students can effectively engage themselves in the lessons get a firm mental grasp on the new information.

Students may have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to academics, and some students may have to work harder at learning a mathematical concept than a language concept—or vice-versa. However, these strengths do not necessarily indicate that a student with exceptional skills in language would benefit best from strictly reviewing word math problems without a focus on numerical or graphic alternatives. Instead, learning should be achieved by utilizing a variety of different teaching methods to slowly piece the concept together in the brain.

Photo: jisc_infonet

About the Author

Jesse Langley lives near Chicago. He divides his time among work, writing and family life. He has a keen interest in blogging and social media. He also writes for

Want to contribute?

If you would like to contribute to the LectureTools Blog or have any story suggestions, please contact our bloggers at

Topics: traditional teaching methods, Learning Styles, classroom engagement strategies, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Educational Technology, student engagement, student engagement strategies, Guest Blogger

How Technology Empowers the Shy Student to Participate in Class

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Fri, August 05, 2011

shy studentWhether in a lecture hall exceeding 500 seats or in a small class of 20 students, college students are often reluctant to participate. For some students, the fear to participate is the largest factor, though for others, the passive nature of lecture inhibits participation.

The benefits of active learning -- including participating in class, applying new material, and thinking critically about new ideas – have been well documented. Despite these benefits, however, passive learning prevails, and students rarely participate in class.


Why Won't They Participate?

The easy answer to the tendency for college students to settle into a state of passive learning is that many are shy or afraid to raise their hands. Students are unlikely to answer a question if they fear their peers will judge them based on their answer.

Even instructors who routinely ask their students to interact during class find for many students, fear inhibits the ability to participate.

“I’ve always used lots of questions, I demand interaction,” said Dr. Ken Balazovich during an event this spring. “What [students] don’t want to do is make a wrong answer in front of 400 people.”

For other instructors, teaching style prohibits interaction. The lecture format by nature encourages passive learning. When students have a question, there is often no natural pause during the session that seems appropriate for speaking up.

It may only seem polite that students would be unwilling to interrupt lecture with a question, but without time for Q&A, it is difficult to assess students’ comprehension. Additionally, many students in the class may have the same question. Students have a lot to learn from hearing the questions of their peers, as well as the instructor’s answers.


Teach with Technology to Increase Student Participation

With students afraid to ask a “dumb question” in front of their peers, hesitant to “interrupt” lecture, and simply unwilling to participate, actively engaging students might seem like a hopeless cause. Many technologies, however, facilitate easier interaction with students, and encourage them to participate.

Student response systems are one solution. As we’ve mentioned numerous times before, interactive lectures taught with student response systems improve student learning. Questions posed to students break up the monotony of lecture, and allow students to self-assess their understanding while engaging with material.

Perhaps the biggest difference between using a student response system and traditional methods like a show of hands, however, is that students have a certain level of anonymity with student response systems. They can discreetly answer the question using a clicker, laptop, or cellphone. Answers are typically displayed as an aggregate to the class, without names attached. Students prefer to answer in-class questions with technology for these reasons, and thus, are more likely to participate.

Technology can allow students to submit questions as they arise, avoiding situations where students forget their question before it can be asked. Additionally, monitoring the backchannel can create a way for students to ask questions and receive answers without fear.

With college students and young adults most likely to be online, your students not only appreciate, but expect technology in the classroom. And it just might help the shy student to participate.


Photo: Jonathan Pobre

Learn How to Harness the Backchannel with an Anonymous Student Question Feed

LectureTools Instructor Dashboard

Schedule a live demo today and learn more about how students can submit questions digitally during lecture for TAs to answer. Answered questions become visible to the entire class anonymously, benefitting all students.

Request a Live Demo

Topics: classroom engagement strategies, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Teaching with Technology, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Classroom Response Systems, Educational Technology, Student Response Systems, Student Participation, Clickers

3 Ways to Use LMS Integration to Teach Interactive Lectures

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Mon, May 16, 2011

LectureTools was only one of many presenters at the 2011 Enriching Scholarship conference. The University of Michigan’s USE Lab also hosted a panel presentation: “Exemplary Teaching: Using CTools to Enhance Interactive Teaching.” During this session, four U-M faculty members discussed how they use interactive classroom technologies through CTools, U-M's version of Sakai, to improve student learning.

Using technology in a large political science lecture

One of the speakers was Dr. Mika LaVaque-Manty, a political science professor who is known for innovative uses of interactive classroom technologies.

View his talk below, or watch it on YouTube:

LaVaque-Manty centered his talk on the idea that you can "use [CTools] as a shell for a lot of things," meaning that he not only uses tools available through CTools, but also external tools integrated with CTools.

LaVaque-Manty highlighted three of the ways he uses CTools to teach interactively in a 250-student introductory political theory lecture.

3 Ways to Use LMS Integration to Teach Interactive Lectures

1. Facilitate interaction and peer instruction with a chat room

CTools Chat RoomThe first tool LaVaque-Manty discussed (3:30min-6:35min) was the CTools Chat Room, which is both a real-time and an archived chat application.

Students are able to ask substantive questions, which can then be answered by a graduate student instructor. The chat room feature is built into CTools and requires almost no configuration.

LaVaque-Manty also talked about holding “Chat Office Hours” through the chat room feature. He found that students were unlikely to ask questions during this designated time, but would ask questions throughout the day. He would address these questions when he was able to log on, but often, other students would jump in and answer their peers’ questions.

Effective use of the chat room demonstrated students’ skills at navigating familiar technologies. LaVaque-Manty, however, cautioned about the “myth of the tech savvy student,” which emphasizes the importance of simplicity and ease-of-use for technology in the classroom.


2. Integrate reading quizzes with LMS

One challenge in college courses is to ensure students complete assigned reading. For LaVaque-Manty’s political theory lecture, students are required to complete reading prior to each lecture, or approximately 26 times per semester.

To address this challenge, LaVaque-Manty has added a “Reading Questions” tool to his course’s CTools site (6:35min-10:15min). This function is an application of the UM.Lessons assessment tool, which links to the class roster and can be configured to use student uniqnames and Kerberos passwords.

Students are required to answer a few quick, substantive questions about the assigned readings prior to class. LaVaque-Manty also asks students how difficult they found the reading, enabling him to assess comprehension issues.

Prior to class LaVaque-Manty is able to quickly review the results in an online report and can adjust his lecture accordingly.


3. Use LectureTools to increase instructor-student interaction

LaVaque-Manty finished his talk by detailing how he utilizes LectureTools in his large lecture courses (10:15min-14:20min). Using LTI integration, LaVaque-Manty has added a gateway to LectureTools in his course’s CTools site.

Students are able to take notes associated with LaVaque-Manty’s slides and can report comprehension issues with material on a given slide. LaVaque-Manty can track comprehension during lecture in real time.

The student inquiry tool allows students to ask instructors questions. During class, LaVaque-Manty uses an iPad to monitor the question stream while his graduate student instructors answer the inquiries.

LaVaque-Manty said he believes that traditional student response systems “don’t work for humanities.” Thus, he utilizes the “smart” clicker function of LectureTools because of its various question types.

image map resultsAs an example, he showed results of an opinion poll posed as an image map question. Students were presented with a timeline marked with key years in the history of the United States and asked “When did the United States become democratic in your opinion?” The results revealed a wide variety of opinions about when the US became democratic and even whether democracy has been reached. Such questions can create opportunities for class discussions, even in large lectures.

LaVaque-Manty has found that with LectureTools, “students are interacting with me much more than they were before in a 250-student class.” He also noted that students are reporting greater satisfaction and he believes there is “clear evidence that students are learning.”


View the rest of the talks from the “Exemplary Teaching: Using CTools to Enhance Interactive Teaching” session on the U-M USE Lab’s YouTube Playlist and learn how other instructors are using technology in the classroom to facilitate interactive lectures and engage their students.

Topics: classroom engagement strategies, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Teaching with Technology, Engaging Students in the Classroom, instructor interaction, student engagement strategies, Enriching Scholarship Conference, LMS Integration

Nobelist's Study Finds Interactive Lectures Improve Student Learning

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Fri, May 13, 2011

engaging students with classroom discussion

A new study by Carl Wieman, a 2001 Nobel physics prize winner, has found interactive lectures that engage students greatly improve student learning. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist has gathered evidence to support that the teaching style of a class is more important than who the instructor is. That is, a teaching assistant or graduate student using interactive teaching methods can deliver a more effective lecture on a topic than a tenured professor who uses traditional methods and is an expert in the field.


Comparing interactive and “traditional” lectures

The results of student learning in two different classes were measured by comparing test scores.

One class had little lecturing: instead, students participated in small group discussions, demonstrations, and question-answer sessions. Instructors were able to view real-time graphic feedback on student learning and on comprehension problems.

Additionally, students in this class responded to in-class quizzes using clickers. Clickers have been shown to actively engage students, to help instructors gauge levels of student understanding, and to provide feedback to student questions.

The control group was a “normal” lecture taught using traditional methods.

Wieman attributed the differences in the students' performance to the style of teaching as it relates to learning processes.

"It's really what's going on in the students' minds rather than who is instructing them," said lead researcher Carl Wieman of the University of British Columbia, who shared a Nobel physics prize in 2001. "This is clearly more effective learning. Everybody should be doing this. ... You're practicing bad teaching if you are not doing this."

Students in the “interactive” class scored significantly higher than their counterparts from the traditional lecture on a quiz about what they had been taught that week. Attendance and attention rates were also higher for the "interactive" class.

Although previous research supports these findings, this study is particularly notable because it was written by a Nobel laureate.


Student engagement strategies for large lectures

Wieman also declared "Lectures have been equally ineffective for centuries. Now we have figured out ways to do it better."

In traditional passive lectures, students are less attentive, more likely to skip class, and less engaged. Introducing interactive teaching methods, however, can help fight these tendencies.

Rather than simply lecturing at students, encouraging interaction allows instructors to more effectively monitor student learning and teach with a rapid feedback cycle. Classes taught in this manner also promote discourse among students, which increases opportunity for peer instruction. Students become more engaged, more attentive, and more likely to attend lecture.

While interactive classroom technology is not by itself a solution to problems of disengagement and inattentiveness, use of social media, clickers, or applications like LectureTools can help support effective teaching techniques for improving student engagement.

Student response systems can test students on concepts during lecture. Instructors can use the results of these “quizzes” to gauge student comprehension and adjust lecture accordingly, if necessary. These tools have an increased variety of uses if instructors are able to ask students for written free responses or test spatial concepts through image maps.

Technology can also be used to facilitate discussions and to encourage question-asking via social media or student inquiry.

The implications of Wieman's study will likely further implementation of such interactive classroom technologies at many institutions seeking to deliberately engage students and improve student learning.

Topics: traditional teaching methods, classroom engagement strategies, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Engaging Students in the Classroom, instructor interaction, student engagement, student engagement strategies, Learning Outcomes

LectureTools Presents at U-M Enriching Scholarship Conference

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Sat, May 07, 2011

enriching scholarship confeSeveral dozen University of Michigan instructors convened in the Shapiro Undergraduate Library to hear Dr. Perry Samson present at the “Using LectureTools to Improve Student Engagement in Large Classes” session yesterday as part of the Enriching Scholarship 2011 conference. The University of Michigan Teaching and Technology Collaborative holds these annual conferences on-campus in Ann Arbor to connect instructional faculty with resources and technologies that can be used for teaching, learning, and research.


Using LectureTools as a presentation tool

Dr. Perry Samson led the LectureTools session by presenting with LectureTools. Registered attendees were given student accounts and logged into the LectureTools Beta to engage with the presentation and to explore some of the features of the web application. The faculty at Enriching Scholarship were the first public group to use LectureTools.

The presentation began with a brief overview of Dr. Samson’s inspiration for creating LectureTools: blank looks in his 220-student lecture and a need that went beyond what traditional student response systems could offer. For the rest of the presentation, Dr. Samson highlighted the features of LectureTools, explained how both instructors and students can interact with the software, and talked about strategies to increase student engagement.


Engaging “students” with the student response system

Dr. Samson presents at Enriching Scholarship

LectureTools offers a powerful, web-based alternative to clickers. Dr. Samson used a free response activity to ask attendees what strategies they had used in large courses to engage students. Many reported they had used think-pair-share or small breakout group discussions. Attendees were also asked a multiple choice question about how often they used clickers over the last year. The majority reported never using clickers for large lectures. Ordered list and image map activities were also presented the faculty.


Fostering an interactive presentation

At the beginning of the session, Dr. Samson encouraged everyone to tweet using the Enriching Scholarship conference’s hashtag, #umttc. Some attendees took the opportunity to tweet about their favorite features, questions about LectureTools, or ask for help.

Most, however, used LectureTools’ student inquiry feature to ask questions they had about the application’s capabilities. This feature enables students to ask a question anonymously during lecture. Teaching assistants or the course instructor can filter through and answer the questions as they see fit. Answered questions are visible to the entire class, allowing students to learn via peer instruction. During the Enriching Scholarship session, another member of the LectureTools team acted as a TA to answer questions while Dr. Samson continued presenting.


Authenticity resulting from user feedback

After the presentation, audience members were encouraged to ask questions and provide their input. Several suggested minor changes to the interface or new features they would find useful. Dr. Samson remarked that one of thing that makes LectureTools unique is its “authenticity” – a product of its collaborative roots.

LectureTools is the result of input from research, faculty, and students. Input from the Enriching Scholarship attendees will be considered by the LectureTools development team, just as input from future students and instructors will continue to shape the product in the future.



University of Michigan Faculty: Did you miss the Enriching Scholarship session? Register online for hands-on training with LectureTools. A LectureTools Academic Consultant will visit your classroom and work with you personally to make your large class seem small with LectureTools.

Topics: classroom engagement strategies, emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, lecturetools beta, Engaging Students in the Classroom, student engagement strategies, Enriching Scholarship Conference