Case Study: Leveraging online discussion to encourage spatial thinking

Dr. Stockton Maxwell teaches geography at Radford University in Virginia, often for lecture halls up to 90 students. “My main goal in teaching is to help students to think spatially. Economies, politics, cultures, and environments are not randomly located in the world. They have a place for a reason!” Professor Maxwell used Packback this semester in class and was blown away by the results.

Course Details

Professor Name: Stockton Maxwell

University: Radford University

Subject: Geography

Course using Packback: Geography of North America

Approx. students per class: 90-100

Feedback from Professor Maxwell

Professor Maxwell has a clear focus for what he wants his students to take away from his courses, but combines these efforts with humor, technological tools & social media at his disposal to assist him. His Twitter account (@StocktonMaxwell) highlights articles, blog posts and tidbits related to the science and geography communities with an intellectual humor that students can really relate to. His online professor ratings are brimming with compliments about how students never leave Dr. Maxwell’s lectures “without a good laugh”, while learning at the same time.

I teach students to understand why things are the way they are.

Stockton is driven by the “why” behind what his students are learning, and getting them to understand their course materials and geography as a whole on a deeper level. To do so, he’s embraced the technology at his fingertips to assist his student’s learning habits.

For lecture halls, I have used cell-phone/tablet course-response systems to engage students in real time. While useful, this method requires more preparation before a course. Implementing Packback was a way to get students to interact with the material, contemporary geographic issues, and with each other. On the professor side, I also needed a solution that was not time intensive while still maintaining substance. Packback is meeting both needs.

When students enter not just a study group, but a community…they truly rise to the occasion.

No stranger to technology in the classroom, Dr. Maxwell integrated the Packback Answers platform into his classroom and has seen a genuine change in how the students are retaining the course material, as well as how they use it in class. “My students readily source ideas and questions from contemporary news issues and respond to each other actively. With proper demonstration of good questions and requiring participation in the grading scheme, students seem to run with topics in a more organic manner.”

With online courses now a regular part of higher education, Dr. Maxwell has begun seeking new ways of promoting engagement, even for courses where students aren’t in a face to face environment. “Now, that I have moved my Geography of North America course to an all online format I have struggled with engaging students in a similar way to in-person courses. Implementing Packback was a way to get students to interact with the material, contemporary geographic issues, and with each other.”

That genuine curiosity that exists within every student is something that both Dr. Maxwell and Packback have been trying to awaken. Working together as a team, Packback has been able to assist professors in making this happen.

I have not had a more hands-on experience with any other educational companies than I’ve had with Packback. Professors spend a lot of time preparing and teaching courses. We need solutions for course engagement and management that are free of technical issues and allow for rapid deployment. Packback has seemed to figure out the correct equation for making this work.

Related Posts:

Want to see a live Packback community and learn how you can increase student engagement and critical thinking in your course?