Student Beverly Paz shares her experience with Packback Questions.
When attending larger schools, such as the University of Alabama, it is nearly impossible to avoid larger classes. Within two years, I have been in several lecture-based classes with a couple of hundred classmates. The issue is that when the class is too big, the professor can become overwhelmed and there is no class time for interacting in small groups. How can students maximize their courses when no class time is set aside for practicing concepts, asking questions, critical thinking or interacting with other students?
While not completely ridding the educational system of non-engaging lectures, Packback does offer multiple features that begin to remedy the situation.
In my experience, the main obstacle I have when asking questions in a large class is social anxiety. When the professor already announces that the class is behind or that the class will run slightly over that day, the last thing a student wants to do is keep the class waiting longer for a question I’m unsure others may have. Many times, the questions that pop into my head during a lecture will permanently remain unspoken and unanswered. Packback is designed to get students asking questions, as well as to gets them thinking about the answers to others’ questions.
When using Packback, I know that my questions are not a burden and that they are helping my classmates and I cultivate knowledge.
In a course that does not use Packback, conversely, there is a good chance that my shyness would prevent me from asking my question entirely. It’s easier to type than speak in front of a crowd.
In addition to making questions easier to ask, Packback also builds a sense of community amongst peers. If a large class lacks time for answering questions, for instance, it is even less likely that it will allow time for working in small groups or getting to know each other In several classes, the only people I know are those to the immediate left and right of my seat. As for the rest of the class? I couldn’t tell you a single thing. How are students supposed to feel as though they can consult their peers if they don’t know any names or faces? With Packback, students can at least begin to recognize their peers’ names as they post questions and answers. Furthermore, students can even become competitive when using Packback, trying to earn the number one rank on the leaderboard. A sense of community can get kids feeling comfortable and curious, but a “rivalry” can improve the quality of the class discussion even more.
Another benefit students can reap from using Packback is the accessibility that accompanies the digital revolution. Students can access Packback anywhere at any time. What if I had a groundbreaking epiphany that I wanted to share and ask my peers about… at three in the morning on a Saturday? Why should I wait until class the next week to share if I can access the class forum right then and there?
Packback is accessible when professors may not be. By allowing students to consult each other at any time, the workload of the professor may also be inadvertently reduced. Every question a student answers is one less question the professor must answer.
Although learning happens primarily on campus, we should ideally never stop learning. Whether you’re too shy to speak up in a hall of a hundred people or have a brilliant idea outside of class time, Packback is there to maximize learning and foster engagement whenever and wherever curiosity strikes.
Written by Bev Paz