The LectureTools Blog

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

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

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