Paper published

My colleague Carly Reed and I just published some work related to teaching general chemistry during the pandemic. Like many others, we implemented a variety of technological tools to facilitate on-line and hybrid instruction. During the process, we monitored student engagement with the various tools and followed up with some student surveys to identify which tools might be worth keeping in “back to normal” instruction.

Word cloud containing terms students used most frequently in a GroupMe text messaging app used during general chemistry.

A link to the paper that we published in the Journal of Chemical Education is behind a paywall, but a direct message to me can help you out if you don’t have a subscription. We looked at three approaches: a text-based (SMS) messaging app for group communication (Groupme); a collaborative slide presentation tool (VoiceThread) for presenting content; and co-instructor facilitated livestream of in-person problem-solving sessions using the video conferencing tools of our learning management system (at the time, Blackboard Collaborate). The three services have varying levels of user tracking, which allowed us to develop some student-engagement metrics.

Groupme message frequency during the class. Blue line indicates number of messages from students and red line from faculty. Gold lines indicate dates of tests and grey area indicates when course transitioned to completely on-line.

For example, we were able to show that high levels of communication at the beginning of the semester waned after a few weeks. A few of the tests induced spikes in activity the night and days before; however this behavior was not consistent throughout the semester. Some time periods where student activity is not tracked by faculty responses occurred during late night hours were students were working through a problem (either academic or griping about the class).

Student survey responses relating perceptions of their technology comfort level with their view of technology implementation. Higher scores indicate more favorable view of implementation or more confidence in their technology proficiency.

Ultimately, we observed that those students most comfortable with technology had more favorable views of the use of technology in the class. While not terribly unexpected, the findings do highlight the importance of considering intentional approaches to on-boarding activities. Students with weak technological skills will need training incorporated into the class in order to use this technology effectively. We also found that without structured opportunities for engagement, students will tend to stop using collaborative tools. Successful implementation of such tools will require active participation by instructors throughout the semester.

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