Meet Our Ambassador: Robert Ridge

Robert Ridge is an ambitious student from the University of Tennessee. His goal is to work in finance after earning a Masters’ degree in Accounting along with becoming a CPA. He’s also extremely interested in technology and physics. In his spare time, he loves working with electrical wiring and programming using devices such as the Arduino Uno.

With a wide range of interest, Robert has grown to be a curious individual and he has been truly enjoyed participating in his Packback community. When hearing that his class would be using Packback this semester, he was skeptical because he knew it would be hard to curate and screen content while still allowing for open and constructive discussion. However, he has been more than impressed with the quality of the moderators.

The content has remained informative and constructive. Packback seems to be a service I can really get behind and support for other classes. It has brought a better sense of community to what is otherwise a very large lecture.

Robert became a Curiosity Ambassador in Fall 2016 and he aims to introduce Packback to more professors at the University of Tennessee.

What are some of the most interesting things you have learned on Packback?

RR: When it came to using a manufacturing method known as the Kanban system, I had assumed everyone would be in agreement that it was the most efficient way to operate a manufacturing line by minimizing work in process and stock on hand. I was surprised to find others who did not share this view. The suggestion was that manufacturers that make highly customized products should not use Kanban. While I disagree with this, it was interesting hearing the good argument they had for their stance.

How has Packback challenged your critical thinking skills?

RR: The class for which I use Packback, Lean Operations, is very quantitative in nature for the most part. Additionally, the tests are all multiple choice, meaning they are mostly fact based. Packback is a major departure from this style. The questions are always open-ended which allow for much deeper thought to take place on topics that typically only require logic and minor reading.

This has challenged me to understand the topics at a greater level such that I may answer others’ questions more thoroughly.

How is Packback different than traditional online discussion boards?

RR: Moderation in other discussion boards is generally lacking. From experience, I can say that discussion boards through Blackboard or Canvas are usually lower in quality. This is mostly due to the professor or TAs being required to provide their own moderation. Their time can be better spent in one-on-one office hours or preparing for future lectures. Packback is unique in that the moderation occurs by a third party (not the professor or students). This allows for greater expertise on the moderation side which increases the quality of discussion.

If asked why professors should use Packback, what would you say?

RR: Packback will allow your students to think critically about the subject you teach while also having the students take ownership of their own learning. A requirement as low as two or three questions stretches each student’s thinking about the subject. Additionally, Packback increases student interaction which is a major necessity in a large lecture and is always a good addition to smaller classes.

From Robert’s perspective, teaching shouldn’t be viewed as a burden but a responsibility, so it’s incredibly important for professors to inspire their students not only to learn the facts but also to question them. That’s when new ideas arise. When students are given a reason to be passionate, teaching and learning become more valuable. That’s why Robert plans to introduce more new and innovative education tools, such as Packback, to his campus!

About the Packback Curiosity Ambassador Program:

The Packback Curiosity Ambassador program launched in October 2016 for students who loved using Packback in their class and who wanted to help bring the experience to other students. 

They play a key role in helping shape the future of curiosity-driven education by spreading awareness of Packback and the need for a tool that supports critical thought. Their experience is evidence that it is possible to create a dynamic community of student learners and that the depth of students’ curiosity has been long underestimated.

Packback Curiosity Ambassadors share their stories of personal growth and the impact Packback has had on their education with other professors who would otherwise not yet have been familiar with Packback.

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