Student Jenna Baker shares her experience with Packback Questions.
Last semester, I took BIOS 350 (Microbiology), and my professor used Packback Questions to let our class explore our curiosity and collaborate with each other through structured, student-led online discussion. It also allows my professor to evaluate us on our curiosity and our interest with the subject matter outside of class.
As a Pre-Pharmacy student, I have been taking several rigorous courses. Higher-order learning is essential in order to successfully be carried on to graduate school for any field of study. Packback has opened me up to an influential learning community that encourages critical thinking skills that I intend to carry on in UIC’s School of Pharmacy starting this year, Fall 2017.
Seeing that their methodology transformed from mere idea to fruition has made me a firm believer in the quality of the program.
I personally attended a small private school with a graduating class of 24 students (yes, that’s right, 24). Having close relationships with both my teachers and peers was never an issue as accessibility and ease of communication was always present. Transitioning to such a large university was difficult for me as I lost that sense of connection with my professors and peers. However, I feel that in my Microbiology class, utilizing Packback gave me back those connections through its interactive discussion boards, professor communication and standard of both asking great questions as well as answering them.
As opposed to a traditional classroom, Packback allows for smaller personal interactions between students.
With large classroom sizes like those at UIC, you can be in the same class as a friend and not even realize it until weeks into the semester, or never even notice at all. Packback forces you to interact with other students for the purpose of learning. By commenting on other students’ posts, you learn which areas of a certain topic were most appealing to them and connect intellectually with one another. Furthermore, Packback encourages students to think of topics at a higher-order level. So many of my peers asked questions that were really open-ended which gave room for a variety of responses. It also pushed me to research and learn about unique facts that came up, like the temperature of the sun or the idea of life on other planets.
It was fascinating to see what other students asked about or responded with when there was no limit to the questions they could ask and responses they could give. For this reason, I feel that genuine learning took place on the platform and creativity was sparked.
Aside from the positive learning benefits that emerge from Packback, we were rewarded through points towards the actual class for participating. Each week, we were expected to post one question and answer two on the Packback site. For this work, we received five points in class per week. Additionally, the professor would base four to five exam questions off of the featured posts page on Packback. That is why the featured posts page became one of my favorites when using the site. The professor selected those questions and deemed them to be important which allowed students to know what content to focus on.
One of my posts was featured in my Microbiology community, which I saw through the weekly newsletter that Packback sends out. The following week a question on our test was derived from my own Packback post! This showed me that I had learned how to properly ask questions and look for content in the right places.
Overall, the Packback experience was new and enlightening to me.
I loved that the sky was the limit and that we were encouraged to think beyond the textbook to truly learn and absorb information.
I hope to carry on this learning ethic to my professional school and in my future endeavors!
Written by Jenna Baker