A digital classroom model, piloted by Fox School of Business, allows students to take control of the classroom.
Professor Carey O’Donnell of Fox School of Business said he believes students need to take more responsibility for their learning. This semester, 23 students will learn in a digital classroom doing just that, taking advantage of state-of-the-art technology while mastering their own educational development.
Fox School of business management information systems department began a pilot program implemented by O’Donnell in the introduction honors course, Information Systems in Organizations.
Students were given iPads to access Courseload, the class’ digital Ebook system. The program builds a portal through the class management system to integrate and deliver the same content given in a paper text, electronically to students.
The iPads, as well as the Ebook, were purchased with grant money donated by someone who O’Donnell described as “believing in the project and seeing its potential.”
“Professor O’Donnell’s enthusiasm about this class was really infectious and exciting,” sophomore finance and accounting major Joseph Musumeci, said. “Having given us all iPads, [he] has made it that we are all guaranteed a device that can easily run the Ebooks on, which is extremely convenient.”
Through Courseload, students and professors can add annotations, questions, assignments and highlighting to the Ebook, using it as they would a regular textbook, but with the ability to share this information with each other in real time.
“This combination of Courseload and iPad will give instructors new ways to teach, and better understand how students learn,” O’Donnell stated in his proposal.
The introduction of iPads not only significantly reduces the cost of the textbook, but also incorporates Temple’s commitment to sustainability, O’Donnell said. Students participating in the pilot program were given an Ebook at no cost.
O’Donnell said he hopes these technologies will be motivational triggers for higher levels of performance in the classroom.
O’Donnell has been an adjunct professor at Temple for more than 10 years. Since last year, he has taught in the MIS department full time, teaching the introductory course, the honors equivalent and the department capstone.
This program is being piloted in the honors class because O’Donnell believes they will be “quick to embrace the technology.” In the project’s proposal he states his belief that students “will relish the opportunity to explore entirely new ways of learning, using new technology and new approaches for teaching collaborative work, assignments, performance evaluation and bi-directional interaction and feedback.”
The concept of this program is to make the classroom less instructor-centric and more student-centric. O’Donnell broke the class into five teams, each responsible to use multi-media and creative sources to present two chapters of the textbook to their peers. The following groups have the opportunity to learn through example.
When the students experiment in this way, they are fostering an interactive and collaborative learning environment, O’Donnell said. The new technological tools given to the students in the form of an iPad and Ebook leverage all forms of multimedia to enhance classroom experiences and keep attention.
“The teams can teach each other,” he said.
During the first presentation O’Donnell noticed teammates giving feedback to each other and sharing ideas for their own presentations. This is exactly the goal he had in mind for this pilot program–a fun, interactive and motivating class where students are eager to learn, engage and participate.
“You have to make what’s going on [in the classroom] more interesting [than what they’re viewing],” O’Donnell said on how he prohibits his students from surfing the web during class. The point is to keep the topics engaging and relevant, and to do so, he said believes the answer is involving the students.
“I was actually in the first presentation and even though I was a little nervous I made my way through. It was challenging but I forced myself and everything went as planned,” intensive English language and accounting student Andrea Blanco said.
O’Donnell said he expected these feelings from his students. However, he also said that he believes that by putting the educational responsibilities of the class in the hands of the students, they will master the material while improving upon their own professional communication skills.
“I think that’s the future,” he said.
There is so much that can be done with the iPad, O’Donnell said as he demonstrated the camera and video quality. It has the ability and the potential to take the place of laptops, as is shown through its convenience. With the FaceTime application, students and professors will be able to video-conference from different locations.
This will be especially helpful during a snowstorm. He said, “Instead of canceling class, we can all sit by the fire [and attend class].”
With Fox School of Business’s access to the physically interactive video application WebEx, O’Donnell will be able to support guest lecturers from all over the country.
Students will be returning the iPads at the end of the semester.
“They’re going to fall in love–they’re going to be heartbroken,” O’Donnell said. “I know what will be on 23 students’ Christmas lists.”
O’Donnell said he thinks it is a great tool for any student.
“The iPad is useful for all my classes, as it is perfect for surfing the web, and checking mail. It stops me from having to bring my laptop around with me everyday or having to run into a computer lab between classes,” Musumeci said.
At the end of each chapter, the assigned group sends the professor 30 test questions, which he will use as input when creating the midterm and final examinations. These questions are also sent to the other MIS Information Systems in Organizations professors, so they can see what students believe is the most important information to remember.
These honors students may very well be laying the groundwork for testing in other introductory classes.
This digital classroom still resembles the common classroom in a number of ways. O’Donnell ensures that with a strict attendance and late assignment policy, a midterm and final examination, and three projects in addition to the lecture presentations. A rigorous curriculum is what these students are used to, yet it is up to them to shape and design it through their participation and feedback.
“It’s their classroom,” O’Donnell said. “They have ownership.”
Nichole Baldino can be reached at email@example.com.