The LectureTools Blog

Receive a $10,000 Research Grant: LectureTools Clients Now Eligible for Echo360 Active Learning Grants Program

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Wed, May 08, 2013

As a current LectureTools customer, you have first-hand experience of how our digital tools help increase your students’ engagement and participation in the classroom on a daily basis.

Now that we’re part of the Echo360 family, you have a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore new ways of using LectureTools and study its impacts, then share your findings with the global community through the Echo360 Active Learning Grants Program!

We’re delighted to announce that LectureTools customers are now eligible to apply for a $10,000 grant offered through this exclusive program. 

One of the new categories is a special LectureTools grant, reserved exclusively for schools currently using our solution in their classrooms. Whether you want to study how you use LectureTools to flip the classroom, boost engagement or assess student participation and understanding through analytics – the choice is yours. 

You can also apply for one of the other new categories making their debut in the 2013 program. For a complete list of grant categories, criteria and previous recipients, visit the website and start making plans for your proposal today!

We encourage all LectureTools customers to take advantage of this unique opportunity and submit their proposals by the deadline of Friday, June 28.

Topics: Active Learning, Benefits of LectureTools for Students, LectureTools News, Learning Outcomes, LectureTools Case Studies, Active Learning Grants

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

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

Study Finds Students Prefer Technology-Based Student Response Methods

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Mon, July 18, 2011

show of handsStudents agree that in-class concept questions are useful, and that technology is their preferred response method.


We have already discussed Wieman’s findings that teaching interactively improves student learning. Now, a new study in the July 2011 issue of Teaching of Psychology has found that while students prefer using clickers to respond to conceptual questions in class, clickers offer no advantage over using flashcards or hand-raising when it comes to learning.

Dr. Joelle Elicker and doctoral candidate Nicole McConnell conducted the research using Introduction to Psychology courses at the University of Akron. The experiment compared three groups, each taught with in-class conceptual questions that provided students more opportunities to engage with material and instructors a way to assess student learning during class.

The only difference between the groups was the method students used to respond to the questions: one group responded with a show of hands, another by holding up flashcards corresponding to the different answer choices, and the third through use of clickers.

Students reported that using clickers, the sole response method that utilized technology, was their favorite way to answer questions. Flashcards were the least popular option, and one instructor suggested students felt this response method seemed childish in a college classroom.


Perceived value of questions and student learning independent of response method

Despite the popularity of clickers over flashcards and hand-raising, the experiment revealed that the response method’s impact on student learning (measured through exam scores) was not significant.

Elicker and McConnell also collected data about student perceptions of the questions' usefulness for learning. Much like the actual learning, the questions were perceived as equally helpful, regardless of response method.

These results reinforce the notion that such in-class conceptual questions benefit student learning. Students, it seems, find value in such interactive teaching methods regardless of response method. But all else equal, students prefer to use the technology of classroom response systems over traditional methods.


Why response method was unrelated to student learning in Elicker study

Skeptics may point to the study’s finding that learning outcomes are independent of student response method. The simple explanation for this is that the study used only multiple choice questions provided by the textbook publisher.

While multiple choice questions can be valuable tools, students can engage with multiple choice questions regardless of response method. Simply put, regardless of whether the student is pressing a button to respond in favor of ‘answer B’ or holding up an index card that corresponds to the same answer, the thought process and practice with the material (or random guess) has already occurred prior to the act of responding.

While traditional clicker systems are typically restricted to multiple choice questions, one would expect that the impacts on student learning would have been far different had the full potential of emerging educational technologies been utilized.


Accounting for the potential of emerging technologies to improve student learning

Index cards, clickers, and hand-raising are all able to convey that a student has selected a particular answer. Imagine, however, if instead of clickers, students were using their laptops and cellphones in class. These devices have much more capability than a traditional classroom response system.

Using powerful software would have allowed instructors to teach interactively using not only multiple choice questions, but also to solicit answers for free response questions or to integrate online media. Instructors could even ask students to do quick research online during class and have students break into small groups to discuss their findings.

Flashcards and traditional clickers simply are unable to relay these complex and open-ended responses. While students could raise their hands to share with the class, in a large lecture this poses the limitation of only hearing from a handful of students in a sea of hundreds.

Finding that students report value from interactive questions and a preference for using technology to respond will have important ramifications for the future of education. Keeping students happy and engaged in large classes offers greater opportunity for learning, and unleashing the full potential of the devices students are already bringing to class will only provide even more such opportunities.


Photo: theirhistory


Learn How the Classroom Response System in LectureTools Facilitates Interactive Teaching

LectureTools Instructor Dashboard

Request a live demo today and learn more about how to create interactive slideshows and how to present engaging lectures using classroom response and student inquiry features of LectureTools.

Schedule a Live Demo

Topics: classroom engagement strategies, emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, Student-Instructor Interaction, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Classroom Response Systems, Educational Technology, instructor interaction, Student Response Systems, Clickers, Learning Outcomes

3 Ways to Use Classroom Response Systems to Teach More Effectively

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Fri, June 24, 2011

peer group discussionClassroom response systems can be used to facilitate peer instruction by having students break into smaller groups for discussion. (Photo: Felix42 contra la censura)

It is an unfortunate truth that many instructors use classroom response systems only to take attendance. It is also true, however, that clickers can be a valuable tool for supplementing and facilitating interactive teaching techniques that can improve student engagement and student learning in classes both large and small.

While there are a number of ways to use classroom response systems, below are 3 of our favorite ways to teach more effectively with clickers:


1. Facilitate Peer Instruction

Instead of having students discuss the question with the whole class, peer instruction facilitates these discussions in smaller groups. Ask your students to turn to a neighbor to defend their answer. More students will get involved in the discussion this way, and any fears of speaking in front of the large class are nullified.

To see what effect peer instruction has had on student comprehension, poll your students before the small group discussions and again after to see how student responses have changed. As an added incentive, peer instruction allows students to hear a different perspective or style of explanations. Additionally, some students find instruction from their peers to be more effective than lecturing from the instructor.


2. Monitor the Backchannel

Though most people quickly think of classroom response systems as a way to pose multiple choice questions to students, an alternative use of the system is to use the clickers to monitor the backchannel. Have students let you know when they are confused with their classroom response system to enable immediate feedback that need not wait for occasional quizzes or exams.

Some instructors who use systems that allow students to resubmit answers could simply leave a poll open for the duration of class, where students can rate their comprehension on a scale 1-5 by answering A-E respectively. Alternatively, after asking a clicker question can ask a follow-up question asking students how confident they are in their answer. More advanced classroom response systems provide separate mediums for monitoring the backchannel, where students can report confusion independently of the clicker function or submit questions.


3. Create Times for Telling

One way to engage students is to use clickers to make them more interested in the information that follows, or to create moments for telling. The underlying principle behind this use is that posing a question that many students will likely get wrong will make the subsequent explanations more interesting.

Students who missed the question will want to know why their answer was incorrect, while students who were able to submit the correct answer are more likely to listen for any pieces of the picture they may be missing because so many of their peers were wrong. Questions of this type do not serve to assess student performance, but rather to encourage students to engage with lecture to learn from mistakes and misconceptions.


Learn How the Classroom Response System in LectureTools Facilitates Interactive Teaching

LectureTools Instructor Dashboard

Request a live demo today and learn more about how to create interactive slideshows and how to present engaging lectures using classroom response and student inquiry features of LectureTools.

Schedule a Live Demo

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

Professors Spy on College Students to Study In-Class Laptop Use

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Sat, May 21, 2011

laptops in class

A St. John’s University law professor had researchers look over students’ shoulders and two University of Vermont business professors used computer software to monitor what students were doing on their laptops during lecture. Though neither study had quite the precision of a true controlled experiment, these results are notable because they relied on observations of students instead of self-reporting and surveys.


Using laptops for non-class-related activities

In the Vermont study, students cycled through an average of 65 new windows per lecture, of which over half were considered distractions. At St. John’s, most second- and third-year law students used their laptops for non-class-related purposes over half the time.

Any visit to a large lecture is likely to reinforce these data. Students are apt to drift to email inboxes and social networking sites. Facebook is a staple of many college students’ laptop screens.

Many times, students will simply pull up Microsoft Word or PowerPoint to copy down bullets when the professor advances to the next slide, and then return to surfing the web.

The study also revealed a significant deviation between student survey results and actual computer-use practices. Students tend to under-report the amount of time they spend on distracting activities in class.


Consequences of laptops for large lectures

In large lectures, student engagement is a serious challenge. With hundreds of students and only one instructor, it is easy for students to settle into a passive mentality. In today’s world, students are not only able to escape paying attention through newspapers and crosswords, but also by text messaging, millions of webpages, and social networking.

The laptop screen creates a physical barrier between the instructor and what students are doing. Students recognize that from the front of the room, instructors cannot see what is happening on their laptop screens. This provides lots of incentive for students to wander away from class-related activities.

Unfortunately, this also means students around the laptop-user can become distracted as their eyes are drawn to web content on the nearby computer screen.

Notably, however, students who checked email and distracting websites did not appear to score lower than their less distracted peers did on homework, quizzes, or exams. Only one activity created significant negative correlation with performance: instant messaging.

This reinforces the notion that many students are effective multi-taskers, though tasks that demand constant attention (like IM) are detrimental to student learning.


Engaging students through their laptops

“The problem is a lot of students use laptops legitimately, so anytime you ban laptops, you’re cutting off the ability of students to do that,” Sovern said in an interview. “So it’s a decision that, to my mind, should be based on the data rather than ego.”

Lectures that are taught interactively have been shown to improve student learning. Whether instructors are engaging students through Chromebooks, laptops, or traditional clickers, how effective the instructor is at facilitating interactivity determines how students are engaged.

Laptops enable students who are fast typists to take more comprehensive notes, curious students to quickly search for more information, and, with the right tools, confused students to seek clarification from teaching assistants or classmates.

There are many ways laptops can improve a student’s educational experience. The key to preventing students from spending the entire class on distracting websites is deliberately engaging laptops rather than ignoring them.

Banning laptops eliminates the potential of such technologies as powerful learning tools, and it is unlikely disengaged students will begin to pay more attention. They are still able to find distractions via mobile phones, nearby friends, or the student newspaper.

Ignoring laptops in the classroom allows students to utilize the technology; without guidance, however, many students will indeed spend much of class distracting themselves and their neighbors.

Encouraging students to engage with the class via technology increases student attentiveness and promotes active learning. Students will act rationally and pay attention in class if incentives favor appropriate use of technology.

How do you encourage students to use laptops appropriately during lecture?

Photo credit: billaday

Increase Student Engagement and Attentiveness

dr perry samson

Read Dr. Perry Samson's whitepaper, "Deliberate Engagement of Laptops in Large Lecture Classes to Improve Attentiveness and Engagement" and learn how student laptops can be harnessed as powerful learning tools to increase student engagement and attentiveness even in large learning environments.

downloadDownload the whitepaper today!

Topics: classroom engagement strategies, Teaching with Technology, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Educational Technology, student engagement, Laptops in Education, Learning Outcomes

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