Cutting-Edge Software Enables Classroom Collaboration at CSU

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Some Columbus State students will engage in a transformative learning method this spring that’s designed to help them thrive as “active learners” while in class.

Class time for these students will involve exchanging information about concepts they’re learning on classroom computers with one other and their professor. The professor, in turn, can read the electronic conversations transpiring around the room and efficiently monitor the level of the students’ comprehension.

An interactive software package named DyKnow Vision will drive the activity.

CSU is one of just 10 higher education institutions in North America selected to use the program through a grant initiative by Indianapolis-based Dyknow, a developer and worldwide marketer of education software.

Assistant professors Zdeslav Hrepic (physics) and Chris Whitehead and Lydia Ray (both computer science) collaborated to secure the grant and will deploy the software in their introductory-level courses.

The trio has received DyKnow Vision class capture and collaboration software and updates, server hosting, online training tutorials, consulting services and support.

“DyKnow Vision will facilitate engaging and collaborative, student-centered learning environments,” said Hrepic. “Implementation of interactive and peer-supported methodologies into these courses is expected to play a critical role in improving student learning gains and learning experience, and consequently student retention.”

The program will allow Hrepic, Whitehead and Ray to transmit course content to student workstations for immediate annotation. Subsequently, they’ll be able to collect student panels, pose multiple-choice questions, or empower their students to lead class from their seats. Afterward, their students can replay the class session by accessing personalized DyKnow Vision notebooks on a server from any Internet connection.

The professors also can integrate text, images, PowerPoint and Web content into the program, as well as gauge comprehension by polling students anonymously.

Hrepic said the software dovetails with the CSU strategic plan provision to utilize leading-edge technology to improve retention and graduation rates. “The College of Letters and Sciences also commits to investigate the use of tablet PC technology for interactive classes,” he said. “We see this grant as a key point in advancing these goals and developing a tablet PC program.”

Tablet PCs provide the functions of a standard notebook PC with added features such as stylus input and handwriting and speech recognition.

Meanwhile, the DyKnow Vision software is expected to impact up to 170 students this spring and another 190 students in fall 2010.

Hrepic said he and his colleagues will measure the students’ satisfaction and learning comprehension along the way. “In computer science we will deploy experimental and control groups, and in physics we will compare results obtained in different semesters.”