The LectureTools Blog

Instructors Reflect on Teaching With LectureTools

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Thu, June 16, 2011

lecturetools beta instructor discussion

Yesterday LectureTools hosted five University of Michigan instructors for a round-table discussion about their experiences teaching with the LectureTools this spring. Members of the development, design, and business teams sat alongside the beta instructors for the discussion over lunch.

Increasing Student-Instructor Interaction with LectureTools

The instructors were enthusiastic about LectureTools, particularly how interactive activities and the student inquiry channel facilitate real-time feedback from students.

Coleman Burns Discussion“It's that interactive piece, it's that accountability piece – and the feedback that I got from [my students] on Monday is that they really like that method of interactivity," said Dr. Patricia Coleman-Burns, who taught a 20-student nursing course. "The PowerPoint by itself, it's very passive.”

Although Coleman-Burns had a relatively small class, she found LectureTools still helped her to identify how her students were learning.

“I'm freer to really hear what they're not getting, I'm freer to get the gaps in their knowledge, I'm freer to give them this platform where they can fail without failing,” she said.

As a classroom response system, LectureTools allows instructors to pose multiple choice, ordered list, free response, or image quiz question types to students. At the instructor's option, the system can generate a results slide to display during class, revealing how students are thinking and enabling class discussion.

Dr. Marita Inglehart, who taught a 100-student Psychology of Dentistry lecture remarked she enjoyed being able to get a sense for how many of her students were answering her questions, instead of relying on just one or two students to share their views with the class.

Dr. Ken Balazovich often teaches courses of 400 or 500 students during the fall and winter semesters. This spring he saw the LectureTools Beta as a valuable “trial run” in his Molecular, Cellular, and Development Biology course of around 100 students.

“I've always used lots of questions, I demand interaction. What [students] don't want to do is make a wrong answer in front of 400 people,” he said.

Allowing students to work through problems in-class with the help of classroom response systems encourages them to think critically.

“They're a lot more open to taking risk,” said Coleman-Burns. “What we want them to do is learn.”


Addressing Student Comprehension and Questions During Lecture

Dr. Lynn Carpenter, who taught about 100 students in an introductory biology course this spring, and Balazovich both found value in LectureTools' student inquiry tool. Graduate student instructors were able to answer their students' questions while Carpenter and Balazovich went on teaching their lectures.

Another featured designed to allow students to report comprehension issues during class is the ability to flag a slide as “confusing.”

“If 10% say it's confusing, I'll go back and attack the problem in another way,” said Balazovich. “So I don't have a deli line outside my office with questions.”

Despite Balazovich's use of real-time feedback, he noted, “I don't teach any differently except I'm cognizant of confusing slides. It's the students who are learning differently.”

Having access to students responses and feedback during lecture makes the task of agile teaching easier for instructors in large classes.

“I loved the idea that I could get immediate feedback from my students during lecture,” said Inglehart.


Looking Forward to Future Courses and LectureTools Features

As the spring beta period comes to a close, the instructors found that most of their beta issues had been fixed by the development team. The meeting concluded with discussion about what comes next, both for the instructors and for LectureTools.

LectureTools Assessment Preview

Kiran Jagadeesh, Lead Software Engineer, also gave the beta instructors a brief sneak preview of the “Assessment” feature, which is expected to be live later this summer.

As the LectureTools team continues to look forward, so do the instructors who plan on using LectureTools in their fall courses later this year.

“Next time I'm going to expand on some of the interactive features and questions,” said Carpenter.


Learn More About the Instructor Interface Behind LectureTools

LectureTools Instructor Dashboard

Request a live demo today and learn more about how to create interactive slideshows and how to present engaging lectures using LectureTools.

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Topics: LectureTools News, interactive classroom technology, lecturetools beta, Teaching with Technology, Student-Instructor Interaction, Engaging Students in the Classroom

Meet the 5 LectureTools Beta Instructors

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Mon, May 23, 2011

For several weeks, LectureTools has been in exclusive beta testing in five spring courses at the University of Michigan. So far, both students and instructors have been able to give our development team constructive feedback about their LectureTools Beta experiences.

We are in constant contact with our “beta instructors” and our development team is busy ironing out any remaining bugs. Allowing these select external users to teach and learn using LectureTools has proved to be valuable for both parties thus far.

We are fortunate to have a group of passionate professors who are using LectureTools in their spring courses. Meet the instructors and see screenshots of how their courses have been using LectureTools below.

Dr. Ken Balazovich

Dr. Balazovich uses LectureTools in his Molecular, Cellular, and Development Biology course, where he teaches roughly 100 students.

biology answered questions

Dr. Balazovich's students have been active on the student inquiry channel. His graduate student instructor answers the student questions during lecture. Above is Dr. Balazovich's view of the answered questions (we removed student names to preserve anonymity). Students see answered questions anonymously.


biology free response

Above is the results slide for one of Dr. Balazovich's free response activities. If the instructor chooses "Show Results," LectureTools randomly selects 20 responses to display and generates a results slide to facilitate class discussion.


Dr. Kyger Lohman

Dr. Lohman is teaching Geology of Michigan this semester. His course has about 40 students.

prepare geology lecture

Above is the "Prepare" interface for one of Dr. Lohman's lectures. From this interface he can import PowerPoint slideshows, re-order or hide specific slides, or create interactive activities.


Dr. Marita Inglehart

Dr. Inglehart is using LectureTools in her Psychology of Dentistry course. Her class begins bright and early at 8:00am, has around 100 students, and has plenty of opportunities for class discussion.

dentistry interactive activity

Activities remain "hidden" from students until the instructor chooses to start the activity during class. Here Dr. Inglehart prepares to ask her students about a dentist's rapport with his patient after an in-class video.


Dr. Lynn Carpenter

Dr. Carpenter is teaching Introductory Biology: Ecology and Evolution this semester. About 100 students are enrolled in her lecture.

biology student inquiry

The student view of the inquiry tool from one of Dr. Carpenter's biology lectures. Students can see the questions they have asked and any answered questions from the entire class. Only the instructor and TAs see names associated with the questions.


Dr. Patricia Coleman-Burns

Dr. Coleman-Burns is teaching Introduction to the Research Approach in Nursing for almost 20 nursing students this spring.

nursing student screenshot

Students can view Dr. Coleman-Burns's slides and take notes using LectureTools. They can also navigate to the "Questions" tab to submit questions for Dr. Coleman-Burns to answer.

Schedule a Live Demo

To learn how to prepare and present interactive lectures using LectureTools, schedule a live demo today.

Topics: LectureTools Beta Classrooms, LectureTools News, emerging technologies in education, lecturetools beta

LTI Framework Spurs Educational Technology Innovation

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Mon, May 09, 2011

sakai ctools university of michigan

Success of Sakai at the University of Michigan

As a leader in the IMS Global Learning Consortium, the University of Michigan has become a case study for implementing collaborative learning and technology in the classroom through its support of Sakai, an open source learning management system (LMS). Each year in Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan’s Sakai system, CTools, has over 45,000 users, 10,000 new course sites and 10,000 new collaborative project sites.

Expanding capabilities of LMS with Learning Tools Interoperability framework

LTI DiagramTo expand the educational technologies available to instructors and students using LMS – such as Sakai, Desire2Learn, and Blackboard – IMS Global created the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) framework. LTI encourages innovation, allowing both university and external developers to add tools that work with LMS. Notable external tools that use LTI at the University of Michigan include SiteMaker, a simple way for users to create websites, and BlueStream, a customized multimedia content management system.

LTI makes it easy to integrate new tools with existing LMS. Commercial vendors initially estimated that it would take 1000 hours of development to integrate the aforementioned BlueStream using API, but with the use of LTI, it took less than 40 hours to integrate authenticated rosters with the system.


LectureTools integrates with LMS through LTI framework

LectureTools is another external tool that offers integration with LMS like Sakai through the LTI framework. Students and instructors participating in the LectureTools Beta in spring courses at the University of Michigan register and login to LectureTools using a CTools gateway. This makes it easy for users to login to LectureTools, and allows LectureTools to enroll students into their respective courses automatically when they create their accounts.

The student response system in LectureTools will also use LTI to integrate with “Gradebook” LMS applications like the one in CTools. This will save instructors valuable time, as credit for student responses is awarded to the gradebook instantaneously.


Benefits of open standards for education

The development of LectureTools by Dr. Perry Samson, Arthur Thurnau Professor of Atmospheric Science, is just one example of the kinds of development that are facilitated by use of open standards. Open standards like LTI allow different universities and vendors to work together on creating educational resources, even if they are using different LMS.

IMS Global’s creation of LTI allows educational technology to be easy-to-use, compatible with various LMS, and developed from all levels of a university. With open standards, new learning tools need not be developed from the top-down. Instead, anyone at an institution with an idea can develop a tool that can easily be added to a preexisting integrated learning environment like Sakai.

Topics: emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, lecturetools beta, Teaching with Technology, 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

LectureTools Passes First Test During Large Lecture

Posted by Cameron Guilmette on Fri, April 29, 2011

student uses LectureTools v2.0

Last week was a very exciting time for LectureTools because, for the first time, LectureTools was used in a live classroom by real students! The software was used in Dr. Perry Samson’s Extreme Weather lecture at the University of Michigan. We are very pleased to announce that despite this being the premiere of LectureTools, things in class went off without a hitch.


Successful LectureTools Test in 'Extreme Weather' Lecture

lecturetools free response resultsWe watched as students marked content as confusing, responded to the interactive activities, and interacted with the instructor via the real-time Q&A feature. Each feature of LectureTools was designed with input from instructors and students to enhance student engagement and increase active learning.

Dr. Samson, a veteran of teaching with technology and the research version of LectureTools, seemed to be very pleased with the lecture as well. He favored using the free response question type for the majority of lecture, which was nice to see because it really showed us how much of a difference technology can make in large lectures. Dr. Samson took time to review the submitted responses for students after each free response activity.

Not only did students appear genuinely engaged at these moments, but also, a few students were even brave enough to raise their hand and ask a question the “old fashioned way.”


Next Steps for the LectureTools Beta

After lecture, students were asked to fill out an online questionnaire to provide feedback about their experience using LectureTools. While most students found no trouble with the software, the development team is hard at work incorporating the students' feedback.

Stay tuned for further updates on the beta testing of LectureTools, as several spring semester courses at the University of Michigan will be using our new software.

Topics: LectureTools News, interactive classroom technology, lecturetools beta, Teaching with Technology, Engaging Students in the Classroom