Apr 242017
Virtual Flex Classroom helps make student “works-in-progress” public

Dr. Matthew Wawrzynski and his students in EAD 889 have been using in-class screen sharing to create a whole new way to make public, and to share feedback on, student group work that is still in progress.

Matthew Wawrzynski is an Assistant Professor in HALE (Higher Adult and Lifelong Education) and focuses on transitional experiences of college students, student access to higher education, retention, and student learning. Matt also teaches EAD 889, a Masters-level overview statistics course that reviews different quantitative research and assessment techniques.

For his course, Matt takes advantage of the affordances of the Virtual Flex Classroom in Rm. 132, Erickson Hall by utilizing in-class screen sharing to provide immediate feedback and modeling for students, and thus to increase the learning for his students. A typical class session goes like this.

Dr. Wawrzynski will give an interactive lecture, with student participation, to teach a particular statistical concept. After the lecture, students split up into groups in the classroom and go to student stations with computers around the room to employ the statistical methods that were just discussed. At that point, the work and discussions in each group normally would only be accessible to the members in a particular group.

But Matt has devised a way to let groups easily make public their work for the rest of the class, sometimes even as the work is taking place. The Virtual Flex classroom features four large monitors that all the students can see. Using the room’s custom Room Control software, Matt can project the screens of individual student station computers onto the large monitors around the room. The students are usually showing work they have done on SPSS, a statistics package that often requires complex decision making and knowledge of its different features.

As Matt puts it, “The beauty of the classroom is that it allows students to engage, then they have conversations about some of decisions they are making about the analysis… we can show it up on the screen and say, okay, let’s talk through how you made some of the decisions you made.”

Matt’s use of the Virtual Flex Classroom technology for in-class activity design is in keeping with current thinking about feedback, collaboration, and student learning. Research has shown that, in general, the more immediate the feedback, the better it is for student learning (Epstein, Lazarus, Calvano, & Matthews, 2002). Courses that deal with complex decision making, such as what analyses to run in SPSS and how to run them, can benefit from this immediate feedback from peers and professors. Traditional statistics classes often have students listen to a lecture then do their homework on their own, only to get feedback on their homework from their professor days or weeks later, and that feedback is generally invisible to each other. Matt uses Flex Classroom technology to significantly reduce the time for feedback and to make that feedback public as a model for others. In his words, “It allows students to see it, hear about it, read about it, do it, and get feedback while doing it”.

Epstein, M. L., Lazarus, A. D., Calvano, T. B., & Matthews, K. A. (2002). Immediate feedback assessment technique promotes learning and corrects inaccurate first responses. The Psychological Record, 52(2), 187.