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Grant supports real-time teaching technique

Associate Professor of Mathematics Eugene
2/20/2006 —

Grant supports real-time teaching technique

DuBois – A grant made available locally by Penn State University, and supported technically through the Royer Center, is being used at Penn State DuBois to teach a real-time, interactive online calculus course.

Associate Professor of Mathematics Eugene "Bud" Boman began the course this semester, which he teaches from his office. The lecture webcast on software called "Centra" allows students to see and hear Boman on their computer screen, as well as see diagrams and equations Boman is composing on the system's "white board," and electronic chalk board.

In turn, Boman can tell which students are logged on for his class, and hear them if they have a question. The interactive software has an option for students to "raise their hand." When the student clicks the raise hand icon, a hand appears on Boman's screen next to the student's name. He can then call on the student, and link that student's microphone to the rest of the class so everyone can hear the question.

Students can also work problems on the white board for all of the other class participants and Boman to see, just as in a real classroom. Currently, all students taking this class, MA 110, are doing so from a computer lab on campus, so that if there are any glitches, all the students will be in one room, and if necessary Boman can physically go to that classroom for any troubleshooting that may be necessary. But Boman said as the semester progresses, and as his confidence and the students' confidence grow in the real-time instruction, students will have the option to "attend" class from home or other locations. Ultimately, any Penn State student, university-wide, can attend the class. Student feedback, which will be done later in the semester, will be key in determining how effective the experience is, and what improvements or changes need to be made to improve the class.

Homework for the course is also presented online via a separate system called WeBWorK. WeBWorK was developed at the University of Rochester with a grant from the National Science Foundation. Several Penn State faculty, including Boman, have been using WeBWorK for several years to deliver online homework for their courses.

“WeBWorK has been working well for some time, so the transition to delivering the lectures online using Centra just seems like the next natural step,” says Boman.

The Royer Center was created in 1995 to foster support for instructional innovation and enrichment at Penn State. The center continues to serve and collaborate with 19 campus locations that were part of Penn State's former Commonwealth Educational System. The Royer Center promotes a strong emphasis on active and collaborative learning and responsiveness to the needs of the surrounding community. University faculty continuously seek ways to improve and innovate, to make learning highly interactive and student-centered, to help students learn to move from opinion to knowledge, and to encourage creativity and independent thought.

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For questions on this news release, please contact Erin Chorney, Public Information Officer, at (814)375-4776 or by email at edc11@psu.edu.

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