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Professor adopts technology tools to increase students’ active learning opportunities

Robert Herrick
Robert Herrick, Robert A. Hoffer Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering Technology

Classroom technology and teaching practices may change over time, but a central goal of effective instruction remains the same: Provide opportunities for students to take charge of their own learning.

In an effort to meet that goal, Electrical Engineering Technology Professor Robert Herrick, a fall 2013 IMPACT faculty fellow, is working to incorporate more active learning opportunities into his freshman-level electrical engineering technology course by leveraging instructional tools which promote student engagement and appeal to diverse learning styles.

IMPACT, a University-wide initiative in which faculty redesign foundational courses around student-centered teaching and learning, has connected Herrick with resources and people, including ITaP educational technologists, who can help him identify practices and implement tools that further his course objectives.

“I’m always looking for ways to reach students more effectively inside and outside the classroom, but I don’t know what I don’t know,” Herrick says. “The knowledge and expertise of IMPACT has proved to be extremely helpful in finding the right technologies.”

Earlier this semester, IMPACT introduced Herrick to Camtasia, software for screen recording and video editing available to faculty and staff for work and home use. He uses the software during class to record his lectures and accompanying animated slides on his laptop screen. After class, Herrick breaks up the recordings into short, focused video segments, uploading the clips to Blackboard Learn for easy student viewing.

Beyond simple screen recording, Camtasia allows users to narrate and record Web pages, PowerPoint slides or software demonstrations. Music, photos and video can be imported, and interactive elements such as videos with links, a table of contents or search functions can be added along with interactive quizzes and captioning. The final product is designed to make sharing easy, so viewers can watch anywhere, including YouTube and mobile devices.

“Nobody learns at the same rate, so technologies like Camtasia are helpful for students who need to hear or see a lecture more than once,” Herrick says. “A beginner like me can pick up the basics of Camtasia fairly quickly, and I’m starting to learn about its technical capabilities, like incorporating online video into recordings.”

In his course, Herrick already makes use of open-source learning management system LON-CAPA to create assessments and provide quick feedback on student homework, Blackboard Learn rubrics to streamline the grading of lab reports, and ITaP-developed JetPack to create customized course materials students can download directly to their mobile devices. By adding Camtasia to his instructional technology “tool belt,” Herrick now has an application to help him realize his vision of a flipped classroom, a course dynamic where students watch prerecorded lectures before class and come to class ready to work in small groups and apply lecture concepts. The class structure, which Herrick hopes to implement next year, will give students the kinds of active learning opportunities that are difficult to create in the traditional lecture class.

“In the flipped class, when students come to class they’re going to have to engage,” Herrick says. “Some students may be resistant to that, but in the real world there’s no choice. The sooner they learn to do that, the more likely they are to be motivated in their own learning.”  

Herrick’s vision for a flipped classroom builds upon current practices in his lecture course in which he uses i>clickers, an ITaP-supported audience-response system, to keep students’ attention on course content. By incorporating i>clicker questions into his animated slideshows, Herrick not only brings elements of active learning into the lecture, he also gains insight into students’ ability to apply course concepts.

“When I’m doing an i>clicker session, everyone in the class is awake and engaged,” Herrick says. “The questions aren’t necessarily about testing their knowledge, but getting them to talk to each other and be active.”

For more information on implementing active learning principles in the classroom using instructional technology, contact ITaP’s teaching and learning group at tlt-consulting@purdue.edu.

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

Sources: Robert Herrick, Robert A. Hoffer Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering Technology, 765-494-7500, rherrick@purdue.edu

Adam Hagen, educational technologist, ITaP, 765-496-2015, hagenab@purdue.edu

Last updated: Nov. 6, 2013