Michelle Barton: Teacher Turned Packbacker

Hi! For those of you I haven’t met, my name is Michelle Barton, I’m a former teacher turned Packbacker. Ever since second grade, I knew I had a love for education and that I wanted to be a teacher (and believe me, everyone else around me knew it too). Teaching is something very near and dear to my heart, some would say I was born with the need to teach! 

As I began my undergraduate studies, I found and fell in love with Sociology and knew that I wanted to teach it at the higher education level. Fast forward a few years later and I was able to earn my PhD in Sociology, and just like I said I would, I began teaching it at the higher ed level and would continue to do so for the next thirteen years.

It’s kind of a Seuss-inspired joke, but I like to say I taught classes of all kinds and sizes: I’ve taught big classes and small classes, intro classes and upper level classes, online classes and in person classes, gen ed classes and special topics classes. I was involved in teaching committees at the universities where I taught and often mentored students above and beyond the requirements of my position. I also led the creation of the online BA in Sociology at LSU Online. To say I have experience teaching is an understatement– pedagogy, inspiring student curiosity, student success and making an impact have always been at the center of who I am.

So, it’s no surprise that when I heard about Packback back in 2019 I was thrilled to try out the then-new platform. Back then it was just Packback Questions, it was an online moderated discussion platform that didn’t boast the bells and whistles it has today, but even then I knew that what it was doing for me and my students was special.

What Impact Did Packback Have?

The biggest impact, at least for me, was in large 100-200 person lecture classes where there were so many students that it was almost impossible for me to have an inclusive and deep discussion with students. I wanted to know what they were thinking, what they were curious about and what reactions they had to the material that we were learning about. But, as one person charged with teaching 600+ students a semester, I couldn’t grade, let alone read and respond to all of those discussion posts on our LMS. 

So, defaulting to multiple choice exams was the best I could do, despite knowing that it wasn’t ideal. However, with Packback’s support, I could easily see my students’ curiosities and interact with them AT SCALE. My job went from quantifying and grading to engaging and furthering discussion. My students were being coached to ask questions and explore their own interests in a rigorous way without much additional involvement from me. I was an evangelist and could not imagine teaching my courses without Packback!

My Next Chapter

Then in 2022, I had the opportunity to come work for Packback. Now, instead of being in front of the classroom, I work with about 175 professors to implement the platform in their courses while helping them untangle some of the pedagogical knots they are experiencing. It is so empowering to be able to support instructors to create a deep and meaningful course experience for their students. I love that every day I get to discuss pedagogy and implement solutions to the many obstacles professors face, not the least of which is now ensuring that students are submitting their own, original work in a post Chat-GPT world.

I have seen the way our platform helps students achieve better grades, deeply engage with the course material and foster deeper conversations in class– both in my own experience and through the eyes of the professors I work with. With our newest tool, Deep Dives, I’ve seen the incredible results of students having real time synchronous writing coaching– students are more confident in their writing, it’s easier for instructors to include writing assignments and to grade them, and students’ grades are overall better.  I have seen professors who were once skeptical of what we do become evangelists themselves because they and their students see the immense value in what we provide (my husband is one of them!).

What Excites Me Most About the Future

What makes me the most excited is the role that I see Packback playing in the future. I have a second grader and a toddler and it makes me so excited to know that a platform like Packback exists and will help support them through their journey in K-12 and higher education. I see how kids are being taught today, it’s the same way I was taught. The focus is on memorization and curiosity and discussion are taking a back seat. I also know that a lifetime of that approach often leaves students dropped into colleges and universities able to memorize, and utilize flash cards, but not actually be able to think critically or ask the right questions.  

As a parent, knowing that I live in the same world as Packback, which can be utilized to encourage creative and engaged thinking, gives me immense comfort. As a sociologist, citizen and certified grown-up, I am so proud to work for a company that not only encourages students to ask questions but to support them in doing so. When we think about the challenges that our world faces, I know that the solutions will ultimately come from someone being brave enough to ask a tough question. And knowing that Packback can help prepare them to do so makes me extremely energized and proud to be a part of this team!

Request a Demo of the Packback Questions Platform

Curious to learn more? One of our friendly strategy consultants will be excited to meet you and discuss your course learning objectives. We will provide a free consultation to see if Packback would be a good fit for your class!

Request a Packback Demo