Study Results Show Using Nearpod Drives Student Participation

September 19, 2019Julie Campbell Ph.D

Cue the Lightbulb: An Aha Moment

I learned about Nearpod from my daughter when she was in the 5th grade. She excitedly told me about her day in her Digital Media course and how her teacher had them log in to Nearpod. Nearwhat? I had her show me the website and immediately, I began to see how I could use the activities in the classes I was teaching.  

I have now been using Nearpod in upper level higher ed courses for about three years. The first semester I used it, I was a bit nervous about whether students would know how to find an “app.”  (Silly me.) The students immediately and easily downloaded the app, and we were using Nearpod within a few minutes.

Before Nearpod: Limited Participation and Discussion

My 300-level Psychology course, Adolescent Development, has a typical enrollment of close to 80 students who are all psychology majors, graduate students or in other closely related programs. In this course, I like to encourage class discussion to reinforce the topic of the day and to get students to engage with the material. 

Before Nearpod, on the first day of class, I would boldly walk away from the podium towards the students and ask, “How would you define the period of adolescence?” Silence. Blank stares. They seem to be thinking, “Why aren’t we just looking at the syllabus and going home?” 

Finally, after close to a minute of silence, a student will raise his or her hand and say, “Puberty?” A short, one-sided discussion ensues, and the conversation dies. Subsequent class sessions are similar, except that the class establishes a pattern in which three to five people become the spokespeople for the entire class, answering questions, and participating in discussion whenever I attempt to start a conversation.

First Nearpod  Class: Shock and Awe

When I used Nearpod in that class to pose that same first-day, open-ended question, “How would you define the period of adolescence?” 91% of the class answered the question. Detailed descriptions included “someone who is undergoing a transition from teen years to adulthood and gaining more independence,”  “a stereotypical definition of adolescent would be a person between 13 and 18 going through life changes,” and “a quirky confused tween.”  

Students were eager to participate! I was shocked and surprised at the answers! Students did have a lot to say, but the format by which I had been engaging students for so long was failing to pull their responses out of them. The answers I was now getting gave me ways to begin discussions. I could point out similarities and differences between answers, and discuss and dismiss myths about adolescence. 

After that first day, students approached me after class asking if we could use Nearpod every day because they felt so comfortable sharing when using it. I was delighted at the question response rate that I was getting in the classroom when using Nearpod.  

Nearpod Changes Teaching Style

Not only did I notice a difference in response pattern from students when using Nearpod, but I noticed a change in my style of instructing as well. I used to pride myself on being an exciting instructor because my PowerPoint slides were animated and had interesting pictures. I had short YouTube videos that illustrated my points. I used humor! 

These were not bad qualities, but when I started using Nearpod, I forced myself to think of new ways to incorporate activities and knowledge checks into the class sessions. I am more aware of whether the students are grasping the material when I use knowledge checks because I can see instantly whether students answer the question correctly. 

Nearpod is Cool: Engagement in Action

I was very pleased with the level of interest, engagement and responses that I was receiving from students. For several semesters, my course evaluations reflected students’ excitement over using Nearpod. In response to “What was your favorite thing about this course?” students were consistently responding, “Nearpod” and “Nearpod is cool.”  

One benefit of using Nearpod that I had never considered, was the fact that students can see the screen no matter where they are sitting, or as the student put it, “I enjoyed the interactive lecture style using Nearpod, as I was able to see all the lecture material (no one’s head was in my way!) and keep up.”

Device Culture. Device Overload

One of the reasons that I started to use Nearpod in the first place was because of the amount of device usage that I saw in the classroom. I had witnessed students texting in class, watching videos and even wearing earbuds and listening to music. It was discouraging to look out to a sea of heads bent to devices.  To see students “checked out” of the current topic and into a world of social media is disheartening.  

When I learned about Nearpod, I realized that by using the same devices that took student attention away from class material, I could increase attention and participation. Nearpod is now my preferred platform for creating active learners.

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