After teaching in various colleges and universities for over 17 years, Dr. Ken Kwong-Kay Wong consistently observed students who are confused, shy, tired, and distracted in the lecture hall, especially those sitting at the back rows. He had a vision to make engaging teaching and learning a reality through the use of technology.
Through collaboration with Professor Paul Lam and his team at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) in 2012, they developed a class response system (CRS), a platform that remotely promotes interactive participation through the student’s devices (laptop or smart devices).
The platform offers instructors a means to garner real-time feedback from students. This class response system is widely used in Hong Kong and has a high adoption and success rate.
When Dr. Wong started teaching online using videoconferencing, he found students were very passive and not keen on responding to questions posed during the live sessions. It was difficult for Dr. Wong to gage if students were understanding the content and concepts of the course.
He turned to the solution he and Professor Paul Lam developed back in 2012 to engage his students and promote active learning in his online courses. In 2018, Professor Wong partnered with his Seneca College colleague, Professor Margaret Osborne, to bring the class response system to Canada and together co-founded Presentria.
Presentria is a tool used to engage students and stimulate active learning during synchronous videoconferencing sessions (and in the classroom) and can be used with any videoconferencing system, including Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, or others. Dr. Wong and his colleagues use the class response system to get online students engaged with key learning concepts and improve learning outcomes.
Presentria is designed as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), therefore there is no app to download. All that is needed is a web browser, such as Safari, Chrome, or Firefox, on the mobile device or the computer. This eliminates installation problems, app crashes, and security issues.
The tool pushes polls and questions to the student’s device to encourage group discussion with innovative questioning techniques, which get more students involved in class participation. In addition, there are advanced features such as team competitions, speed challenges, peer review, peer feedback and experiential learning.
Questions and Polls
This advance class response system allows instructors to ask questions to their students during videoconferences (or in classrooms) over their computer, tablet or smartphone, in 6 question types:
- Multiple Choice
- Text (short answer)
- Likert Scale
- Private Messages
- Numeric Value
Instructors “push” (display) the question on students’ computers or smart devices. Instructors can add graphics, images or YouTube videos to the questions. When the questions are answered, instructors can tabulate and visually present the results on students’ computers or smart devices using word clouds (infographic), bar charts or line graphs, depending on the question type. For multiple choice questions, instructors can set the correct answers and the Presentria system can automatically grade them and assign marks to students.
Reports are also available to the instructor to see who participated and provides access to both individual and group results, providing key information to the instructor to indicate where they may need to revise course content or concepts accordingly.
The platform accommodates various languages and for math, economics, and statistics courses; it can add mathematical equations using LaTeX code or by using the CodeCogs Equation Editor.
With Presentria, instructors can set up questions ahead of time or do so on the “fly”. It also has a shareable question bank, where different instructors teaching the same course can create a single set of questions and let other instructors use the same question set easily without re-typing. Program coordinators can also use this approach to ensure consistency in delivering the lecture materials across different sections.
This advanced class response system provides group activities, gamification, peer sharing and peer review in the following features:
- Team Competition: Students form teams to compete. Individual scores are added up to create the team score. The team with the highest scores wins.
- Speed Challenge: Students compete to answer questions correctly in the shortest amount of time.
- Level Challenge: Students have two lives and lose a life if they answer a question incorrectly or take a pass. Those who are still “alive” at the end win.
- Pick or Random: The instructor picks a student from the list, or randomly, to answer the question.
- Hand Raising: Students press a button on their smartphone or computer to raise their hands. The instructor selects a student to answer the question.
- Peer Review: Students answer an open-ended question, and then let their classmates check each other’s work and give scores.
- Peer Instruction: Students answer the same question twice while in between, they discuss and learn from each other.
Location-Based Experiential Learning
This feature gives an instructor the opportunity to plan an excursion and set checkpoints around a city, town or neighbourhood. The professor asks her/his students to visit these checkpoints, and when they arrive at that particular location/building, a corresponding question (or web content or file) is displayed on student’s device. When students move to another checkpoint, another set of questions/content/file is displayed. Students can only view the questions when they physically arrive at the checkpoint.
Benefits and Outcomes
According to Dr. Wong, the main benefits of using Presentria are:
- Broaden student participation. Using the class response system provides students an alternate avenue to participate in class, online, or in the field, and gives all students a voice, especially those who are shy or hesitant to answer questions live.
- Higher student interest and engagement. Incorporating the class response system activities helps keep students more actively engaged and attentive during online lectures. Instead of having students passively listen, instructors can push out questions or related activities during the lecture to maintain student attention and increase participation.
- Providing formative assessment and immediate feedback. The class response system is a way to conduct quick formative assessment to easily check student’s understanding of the material. The immediate feedback provides insights into the students’ competencies. The instructor can verify whether students understood the course material and can adjust accordingly.
- Visual learning. Students favour the short answer question type for the visualization of the word cloud it generates as a result of student answers. For example, if the text question is: “Please describe the product positioning of Canada Goose parka”, students may type whatever they feel towards this brand by writing something like “I think it is Made in Canada; it is a premium jacket that’s great for the artic, but it is too expensive…”. The class’ feedback is collected and a word cloud shows the main keywords “Durable, Quality, Premium, Canada”.
- Facilitate dialogue. The class response system provides instructors with a useful tool for encouraging class discussion. A question that produces various student responses can spark dynamic and lively classroom dialogue.
Challenges and Enhancements
One of the challenges is faculty adoption and the willingness to learn how to use the technology. There is a small learning curve to use Presentria and faculty members need to invest time to learn how to use it.
The software’s performance can also be affected by many factors, such as networks (WiFi, 3G, 4G/LTE), operating systems (Mac, PC, Android, iOS) and web browsers (Safari, Chrome, Firefox).
Dr. Wong is consistently adding new features and fixing bugs based on valuable feedback from colleagues and users. For example, the word cloud feature was recently updated to exclude common words such as “and, an, the” in the word cloud engine so it can display word clouds in a more relevant manner.
Dr. Wong and team are working on an alpha version of Presentria for the Pepper Robot, where the robot circulates around the classroom and tests student’s knowledge with pre-designed questions, and provides immediate feedback.
For Further Information
Dr. Ken Kwong-Kay Wong
Professor, School of Marketing
Seneca College of Applied Arts & Technology