Learning Catalytics

Matthew W. Stoltzfus

Chemistry Lecturer

The Ohio State University

It's not just a technology, it’s a way to engage your students

As I prepare for each general chemistry lecture, I ask myself one question: "What is the best use of my face to face class time with students?" I don't believe the best use of my face to face time is to lecture to the students using chalk talk or PowerPoint. With today's technology, all of my traditional lectures can be posted on-line and students can watch these before or after class. I only have three hours per week with my students, so I decided to flip my classroom in order to make the best use of the time I have with them.

In a large lecture class with over 300 students, a variety of challenges arise when trying to actively engage students. I started with clickers, and then progressed to polling with cell phones/laptops. In each of these systems, I was limited to just multiple choice or text-based free response questions and it became clear these systems were built to poll students, rather than engage them in peer discussion. In contrast, Learning Catalytics offers 18 different question types.

And Learning Catalytics is not just a technology – it's based on research-based pedagogies. When students login to Learning Catalytics they are prompted to enter where they are sitting in the lecture hall. This allows me to monitor student responses in real-time based on where they are sitting, and tells me where to focus my attention and facilitate instruction. Learning Catalytics also manages student interactions by grouping students with an intelligent algorithm based on how they responded. Once I assign groups, students receive a message on their device telling them which peers to talk to. Students are not told the correct answer, just the classmates with whom they should discuss their responses. They discuss their answers with each other and resubmit. A graphic is shown to illustrate this process and highlight the significant gains I observed by having students engage in this activity.

For the example given here, the student discussions increased percentage of students responding correctly from 53% to 96%. This fall, I plan to probe whether or not the students really learned from their peers or simply copied their responses. To do this, I will utilize the Team Based Assessment response modality for the recitation sections. In recitation, I will give the students a similar question to what they saw in lecture and they will first individually respond to all questions in the module; then, students will gather in their groups and respond to the same questions as a team. This will allow me to monitor student progress from lecture to recitation and then eventually to the exam score.

Read more about Matt's approach to flipping his classroom.

Watch Matt's TEDx talk about his teaching.