Cell phones supporting participation

Matt Numer, School of Health and Human Performance

“Don’t be overwhelmed by the innovation. Start small and build on it.”

In a class where discussion questions, participation and classroom interactivity make up 20 per cent of the final grade, student engagement is a high priority. Matthew Numer uses an innovative and interactive online tool called Top Hat Monacle that allows his 400 students to participate using their cellphone, smartphone or laptop.

The students are able to respond anonymously to topics by replying in real-time to multiple choice or true/false questions. Anonymity is especially important when dealing with sensitive issues. “My topic area is Human Sexuality,” explains Prof. Numer. “Sometimes I present attitudes and opinions about a certain topic and poll the audience to see how my classroom of university students compares against validated research.”

He’s also able to conduct classroom demonstrations, like the “mating game” he uses to illustrate the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). “Students virtually mate with other people in the classroom,” explains Prof. Numer. “They have more mating opportunities than the available virtual condoms. Up on the classroom screen, they can see how STI transmission is happening.”

As a result of their participation, students are leaving class with more long-term knowledge, judging from their performance in the course. “The online tool helps reinforce the various topics. When I ask a question and we discuss it using this interactive, technologically-supported method, the discussion helps students retain the information,” says Prof. Numer. 

The convenience factor

Not only is Top Hat Monacle useful for engaging students, it’s also convenient. It saves time for professors by self-calculating participation grades and saves students money in class materials. Normally, the hardcover text for the class would cost $110, but the publisher is providing a $55 online version, which students can opt to purchase instead. Even when added to the $20 for using Top Hat Monacle, students can still save money.

Prof. Numer recommends choosing innovative techniques that will work for you. “Don’t be overwhelmed by the innovation,” he says. “Start small and build on it.”

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