FACILITATING TEACHER–STUDENT COMMUNICATION AND INTERACTION IN LARGE-SCALE LECTURES WITH SMARTPHONES AND RWTHAPP
In large-scale lectures with more than 1.000 Students, possibly in different lecture halls, interaction and communication between the students and the teachers is almost impossible. Using RWTHApp we present a way to exchange messages between students and teachers to re-enable communication during this kind of lectures and other events. Considering the ease of installation and the fact that the RWTHApp that was already downloaded on 27.000 devices, we expect that many of the 45.000 students already have it installed on their mobile devices. Therefore RWTHApp cannot only support the students’ personal learning processes but also their experience during lectures. Due to permanent presence and wide spread apps and smartphones are ideal tools to support blended learning scenarios.
Currently RWTHApp is supporting more than 25 lectures and other events with the presented feature. The number of participants ranges from as few as 50 to more than 1000. While most events are traditional lectures in a single lecture hall some events are broadcasted live to a remote lecture room or even to multiple locations like the students’ homes. These and other aspects, make each lecture unique in some way. This is why a very low threshold application was developed that can be easily adopted in the different scenarios.
Using RWTHApp we enable students to send a text message that is transferred to the teacher. The teacher is able to react to the messages during the lecture and can directly address the audience without an app. Picture messages can also be used to send handwritten mathematical equations or graphs instead of typing them using the smartphone keyboard.
In the basic scenario messages are only intended for the teacher and not for the fellow students. However they can be published on a second screen. This allows students to share their thoughts with others and may further facilitate exchange of ideas between students in big lecture halls. It is also possible to moderate the message stream and only forward a choice of messages to the teacher. Even though this makes it easier to react to incoming messages for the teacher this scenario requires a moderator to be present who assists during the lecture by filtering the messages.
The teacher can also broadcast messages to all students and responding to questions asked by a single student using the app. Furthermore the teacher can send a poll request to the students giving them the possibility to select between one of four choices. The results are presented as a bar graph displaying the number of times a certain answer was picked.
We observed that the students have adopted this new medium very fast. This also posed a challenge to the backend servers used to distribute the messages between students and teachers as more than 1000 students are using the system at the exact same time. The presented scenarios are intended for presence lectures where students and teachers are in the same room or in close proximity. However as more lectures and other events start using the app more scenarios become unveiled (e.g. remote peers during video broadcasts or during homework sessions). Also the feature is going be used to offer quick support for students experiencing troubles with the universities IT services.