I recently heard about Learning Catalytics via Greg Wilson. He forwarded this article on to me, which talks about using Learning Catalytics in calculus and linear algebra classrooms. It looks like Learning Catalytics (LC) is similar to Socraticqs in that it is a tool that can be used to establish and manage an interactive classroom.
LC allows students use any web-enabled device (computer, smart phone, e-reader, iPad, etc) to engage in an interactive classroom setting. The questions are created by the instructor, and they can require a variety of different types of student responses, ranging from multiple choice and multiple select responses to graphical or textual responses.
Instructors can then automatically create peer instruction groups based on the realtime student responses. The LC system can monitor the timing of questions, so that the class is appropriately paced.
Instructors can then examine all student responses and performance at their leisure. Students can also review questions after class as a study aid.
I just created my own account on LC to see how it works. For instructors, creating the course is free. It only took me a minute or so to set up the account.
If I want to make the classroom, then I can make a seating chart for the auditorium where the class is held. The seating chart can then be used during class to dynamically identify peer learning groups for collaborative work in class (based on student responses to LC questions).
I also can set up a course, which is the path I’m following now. I started a CSE 231 LC course and initiated a new module. The module I’m working on now is a trial module for a lesson on booleans, assignments, and conditionals. Then I’m prompted to write each question one at a time. That does seem rather time consuming, but the effort it requires now would save a lot of grading / processing of worksheets and other interactive lesson techniques later.
Interestingly, I can also tag each question, which I’m guessing would be good for finding questions to reuse in future courses. Even more interestingly: the questions can be written/composed in Markdown, HTML, or LaTeX. Here, I have created two questions for the module I made.
So, what are the downsides? So far, it only looks like the downside to using LC is that it costs $12 for a student to enroll in a course. But, that cost is minimal and could be incorporated into course fees like that of a textbook price.
Also, LC requires that all students have some sort of internet-enabled device. Not all students will have smart phones or laptops. But, it’s a pretty safe bet that most students in the computer science courses at MSU would have the necessary devices. If not, we could do something like what was talked about in the original article Greg sent me – apply for some sort of funding to get iPod touches for classroom use for students who don’t have the necessary devices. We could also probably check out laptops from DECS – I think they do something like that.