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Economics instructor uses Hotseat to guide teaching, increase student engagement

Kelly Blanchard
Kelly Blanchard, continuing lecturer, Krannert School of Management

In basic economic theory, every action has a cost. So when continuing lecturer Kelly Blanchard decided to redesign her sophomore-level economics courses in the summer of 2012, she wanted to leverage teaching tools that could help increase the value of class time for the 1,400 students she teaches each semester.

One of the most valuable tools Blanchard implemented is Hotseat, a real-time discussion application developed by ITaP, which she uses to increase student engagement in her large-lecture courses and gather instant, in-class feedback on students’ comprehension of course concepts.

Each week during class, Blanchard posts a multiple-choice question on Hotseat for students to complete. Students can view the question on the classroom projector screen, but also on their laptops, smartphones and tablet devices. After working through and discussing the problem for five minutes, students vote for the answer they think is correct. They submit responses by texting the answer code or via the Hotseat mobile app for iOS and Android.

As responses roll in, Blanchard can see instantly whether students understand the material or need more instruction. After class, Blanchard gives her students credit for participating in the exercise by downloading a Blackboard-ready file from Hotseat, which is easily transferred to the grade center on her Blackboard Learn course site.

“Students get credit for participating, but I really find that students want to vote for the right answer,” Blanchard says. “If I see students voting on the wrong answer, I say let’s stop and go over this problem.

“I’ve told them the point of these Hotseat questions is for me to see what I’m teaching well and what I’m not. Instead of having to read students’ body language, Hotseat helps me know if students understand the material. I’ve had great success using it and great feedback from students.”

Since its 2009 release, Hotseat has been used by instructors as a real-time backchannel for discussion during lectures, a message board for students to ask and answer each other’s questions in and outside of class, and a crowd-sourced collection of class-related queries for instructors to address. Considering that the application is accessed through technology already integral to students’ lives, Blanchard says Hotseat is a low-risk, high-reward technology for instructors.

“Students already have cellphones; they don’t have to buy anything extra to use Hotseat,” Blanchard says. “The way I use it has worked really well for me, but it’s a flexible technology that instructors can adapt to their own teaching style and class structure.”

In addition to Hotseat, Blanchard registers her courses for BoilerCast, which underwent an upgrade earlier this year. The automated lecture audio and screen recording service captures Blanchard’s voice and the notations she makes on the classroom document camera. Shortly after class, a Web link to the recording is created and automatically loaded to Blackboard for student access.

“I hear students talk about it all the time and say they’re glad it’s available,” Blanchard says. “It’s particularly helpful for students studying for an exam or looking for extra support.”

To learn more about Hotseat, BoilerCast and other technology tools available to instructors, visit ITaP’s teaching and learning website or contact ITaP’s teaching and learning group at tlt-consulting@purdue.edu.

Additional information on Purdue-developed learning applications can be found on the Studio by Purdue website or by contacting studiohelp@purdue.edu.

Writer: Jonathan Hines, technology writer, ITaP, 765-496-7998, hines18@purdue.edu

Sources: Kelly Blanchard, continuing lecturer, Krannert School of Management, 765-494-7956, khb@purdue.edu

Suzanne Ahlersmeyer, ITaP, 765-496-7403, smahlers@purdue.edu

Kevin O’Shea, ITaP, 765-496-1441, koshea@purdue.edu