474307 Utilizing Classroom Management Software to Handle Large Classes

Monday, November 14, 2016: 8:20 AM
Continental 3 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Janet deGrazia, Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO

A major problem facing instructors of large classes is handling the accompanying increased organizational details and at the same time, trying to be as accessible to the students as possible. This encompasses keeping a grade book, entering grades, and forming and grading group assignments, among others. In addition, the instructor needs to hold office hours, respond to emails, and present reviews. One method that we have adopted with great success is incorporating little-used features of a classroom or learning management system to not only save time, but also to offer our students the same atmosphere and learning environment provided in smaller classes. This is particularly important in the lower-level core courses where faculty availability and classroom resources are often essential for student success.

A classroom management system is an on-line compilation often used solely for keeping grades. There are a number of systems that are currently employed by different universities. Those used by and/or considered by the University of Colorado include Desire2Learn, Blackboard and WebCT. Currently we are working with Desire2Learn and the methods described in this presentation have been used in that system. However classroom management systems are similar enough that these methods can easily be incorporated into others. In fact, we developed many of these practices in one system and easily transferred them to our current system.

Based on both research and experience, our preferred method of teaching is the use of the “flipped classroom” approach where information delivery is outside the classroom. Faculty adopting this approach modify their role from a front-of-the-class lecturer to a collaborative and cooperative facilitator of learning. The flipped classroom results in a shift from covering curriculum to a collaborative effort to master concepts and problem-solving techniques. However, many instructors find it difficult to change their teaching styles because of a lack of time or resources. Some faculty have expressed concerns that devoting class time to active learning might not provide students with sufficient examples of problem solving or sufficient time to introduce material. A well-organized classroom management system supports the flipped classroom approach, even for those large classes.

Components of this approach include on-line quizzes that test the students’ knowledge of assigned reading material; screencasts that provide supplementary guidance on particularly difficult concepts; interactive simulations that promote understanding by making abstract concepts tangible; and ConcepTests that are used in class to challenge the students’ knowledge and generate discussion. Most of these materials can be found at www.learncheme.com.

The features that a classroom management system provides to insure that the instructor can retain this method of teaching for large classes without increasing the burden include:

  • Modular class design with links for “information delivery”
  • Group formation tools
  • Dropbox, rubrics and grade items for homework assignments
  • Clicker integration
  • Class email
  • On-line office hours capability

In this presentation, we will describe both the implementation and effectiveness of these integrated tools within an active learning environment.


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