Through a new partnership with Packback, Michigan State University is now giving instructors and students access to an inquiry-based discussion platform designed to increase engagement and boost academic outcomes, even in remote settings.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the landscape of education, Michigan State University has emerged at the forefront of both research and practice to support both its community and the country at large. From launching a partnership designed to help K-12 teachers boost engagement to conducting research into the impact of race and political affiliation on adherence to public health standards, MSU is pioneering new approaches and sharing new insights to aid in the fight against the crisis.
But there’s also innovation taking place in the classroom — in ways that may transform MSU’s approach even after the pandemic subsides. Through a new partnership with Packback, MSU is now giving instructors and students access to an inquiry-based discussion platform designed to increase engagement and boost academic outcomes, even in remote settings.
For many MSU classes, this approach has already had a transformative impact. In the words of marketing lecturer Raymond Pirouz:
“One of the biggest pain points associated with not being in the classroom is the lack of meaningful student interaction. Human connections are more difficult to make when technology acts as the intermediary because user interfaces and user experiences can get in the way of human engagement. Discussion forum tools built into the LMS attempt to afford us with a means with which to connect, but they are clunky and sterile environments that get in the way more than they facilitate conversation.
Packback’s ease of use for students, combined with its ease of use, administration, and – most importantly – grade reporting, makes it a joy to include as part of my course offering. I have been most surprised at the quality of content generated by students – whether in asking or in answering questions. An environment like Packback can give voice to the student body in ways not possible in-person.”
Experiences like Raymond’s back up forthcoming research indicating that inquiry-based discussion, powered by AI, can play a critical role in supporting student engagement and success. A soon-to-be-released study conducted in partnership with 10 higher education institutions indicates that students in classes that use Packback received more A, B, C grades and fewer D, F, W’s than the control group, and also cited sources approximately 2.5 times as often. It’s promising results like this, coupled with the feedback we continue to receive, that will help Packback continue to iterate and improve in the months to come — and continue to support institutions and students both throughout the pandemic and beyond.