Remote classes: How one instructor used TurningPoint to enhance learning and engagement

Dr. Magdalena Wajrak, a senior lecturer in chemistry at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia, was one of the many instructors struggling to pivot at a moment’s notice to remote learning this past semester.

Magda has long been a proponent of usefully integrating technology in the classroom, and has used TurningPoint in-class polling since 2009 in her Chemistry for the Life Sciences course. With a roster numbering between 300 and 400, this class is designed for students who did not take chemistry in high school and are in programs ranging from human biology to environmental sciences.

“I get to introduce students to chemistry, and excite them and inspire them,” she said. “I use a lot of technology because I want to help students in the learning process.”

TurningPoint became an important part of her lecture sessions. She would ask questions – sometimes at the beginning, sometimes at the end or during the lecture time – to check on student’s understanding of chemical concepts and to encourage engagement in large lecture classes. The questions were set to anonymous, so the students wouldn’t feel any pressure about getting a wrong answer.

“I wanted to obtain feedback from students with regard to their understanding of the chemical concepts that I have introduced during the lecture. Did what I said make sense to them?” Magda explained.  “So when these clickers came on the market, I thought, this is brilliant. I could just poll them in the middle of the lecture or the end of the lecture and ask a few questions to see if they understood the topic.”

A sudden shift to remote learning

When the university cancelled in-person instruction in week four of the semester, Magda wanted to continue using TurningPoint. Since she could no longer see her students’ faces or body language during lectures, the immediate feedback from interactive polling would be even more crucial in helping her to get a glimpse into her students’ understanding and to know when she needed to re-explain a particularly tricky concept.

As a lecturer, when you’re busy doing hundreds of things, you want technology that works and is easy to implement.

Magda integrated TurningPoint into her remote lessons by allowing her students to use the TurningPoint app in place of clickers, to respond from anywhere with their own cell phones, tablets or computers.

“I love the way this technology worked so well,” she said of her initial impression. “As a lecturer, when you’re busy doing hundreds of things, you want technology that works and is easy to implement.”

Fortunately, she wasn’t the only one to benefit from TurningPoint questions during remote chemistry lessons. Students time and again let her know that they “really, really loved it.” In fact, responding to an end-of-class survey, they said overwhelmingly that TurningPoint’s immediate feedback helped to improve their understanding of the material, keep them more engaged in the lecture and clarify conceptual misunderstandings.