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Prof: 'Engage Students Through Their Laptops'

This fall the University of Michigan will roll out an interactive presentation tool called LectureTools, created by one of its own professors, to more than 4,000 students. The software is designed to keep students engaged during presentations using laptops and smart phones, especially in large lectures.

"The key is to engage students through their laptops or cellphones, so they don't drift off onto social networking sites," said Perry Samson, an atmospheric science professor. "We've shown we can do that."

Samson began LectureTools as a research project at the university with funding from the National Science Foundation in 2005 with the goal of increasing student engagement and participation. LectureTools, the Ann Arbor, MI-based company, was founded in 2010, and the software's new version was developed that year.

Feature of the software include:

  • The ability to import PowerPoint slide shows;
  • Interactive questions, which lets students answer inquiries by the teacher via laptop or mobile device;
  • A variety of question types;
  • Teacher previews of interactive activity results in real time;
  • Bookmarking of slides to be reviewed later;
  • Recording and archiving of student activity during class;
  • Showing results using graphics to reveal trends; and
  • Note-taking capabilities for students.

It also offers a student inquiry tool, so students can ask the instructor questions electronically. Answers are shown alongside the presentation anonymously. Through a presentation dashboard, which allows the teacher to keep track of student comprehension, the instructor can also see and respond to incoming questions and interactive activities.

LectureTools is free for instructors, but there is a $14.99 per term cost for students. Other pricing options include $24.99 for two terms or $59.99 for five years.

University of Michigan has three campuses, in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint. Enrollment is about 60,000. LectureTools will be used in about 20 classes to start.

For further information, visit the LectureTools site.

About the Author

Tim Sohn is a 10-year veteran of the news business, having served in capacities from reporter to editor-in-chief of a variety of publications including Web sites, daily and weekly newspapers, consumer and trade magazines, and wire services. He can be reached at timothyjsohn@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @editortim.

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