Student Panel on Academic Technology

Today’s post is taken from a short interview with several OU students concerning technology in and out of the classroom. The student panel consists of Guy, a graduate student in the Master’s of Health Admin program, Ariel, a University College freshman, Rebekah, a senior Interior Design major, and Jawanza Bassue, a senior in the College of Engineering.

What’s the best way to communicate with you outside of the classroom?

Jawanza – I still believe a properly formatted email is the best way to communicate outside of class. I see email as being a more “official” means of communication and I tend to pay attention when a University organization contacts me in that way.

Rebekah – Either on my cell phone or via email. I always have my phone with me so I can easily check both at the same time.

Guy – Phone or email works fine.

Ariel – Email has to be one of the best ways we can communicate with our professors.

What’s one technology a professor has used in class that has enhanced your learning experience?

Guy – As I am currently enrolled in a completely online master’s program with OU, I was initially worried about the level of education I would receive.  While many professors use the discussion boards, one of my professors is actually very involved with it and will regularly go a respond to the students post on questions asking further questions. While this can be tedious for students, it does motivate and push students to think critically and to really reflect on the course material.

Ariel – I have noticed a direct correlation between my grades and how much I interact with the professor. It is also important to interact with the students in my classes. It is easy to make study friends in smaller classrooms, but it tends to be more difficult in the 300-500 student lectures. Thankfully, there is a solution. Dr. Damphouse, my sociology professor, has assigned us to small groups. Every week we have to submit a post on the D2L discussion board and reply to another students post. This makes our 300 student class seem more like a 30 student class.

Jawanza – The use of “clickers” greatly enhanced the experience in a few of my classes. TopHat ( is a product used in one of my classes that helped to engage the students while providing the professor instant feedback. I have heard of other large classes using the “iClicker” system – a physical keypad to interact in classes.

Rebekah – Using iPads in class are really effective. It’s less technology to carry around, it weighs less, and professors actually know how to use them. When the classroom is set up for iPads, it’s easy to go between student and teacher technology use within the classroom because a lot of students use them as well.

Have you taken an online class? Did you enjoy it more or less than a standard format class? Was it easier/harder?

Guy – Yes I am currently enrolled in 9 hours online at the graduate level. I consider it much harder as the student is solely responsible for keeping up with course material, requirements, and course work. Also, I have found not interacting with other students effects my personal motivation in completing work. Currently I have been performing well but in an online class you frequently feel alone and you do not have other student’s to go to for study groups or for reflecting on each others struggles in a particular class.

Jawanza – I have taken online classes – they were helpful and I was able to work at my own pace but they lacked any form of interaction. We typically submitted our homework through D2L, and had a forum discussion about the course material every other day but there was still no energy or engagement in those discussions. Also, the professor couldn’t provide individual feedback because of the bulkiness of the system and large enrollment numbers. I would probably not opt to do another online class of that form.

Rebekah – I have taken online classes in the past and I am currently enrolled in one now. I do not like them as much because I learn better in a classroom but they are convenient with my work and school schedule. Being able to work on the class on my own time is so much more convenient.


What questions would you like to pose to our next student panel? Leave them in the comments!

Jeremy Hessman

cloud computing


  1. Becky Grant

    Hi Laura, thanks for the great comments! In regards to the online tutorials, I’ll let Keegan from CTE respond. Your comments on Google Apps for Education are duly noted and I know this is something OU IT is currently looking into. As soon as I have more information, I’ll be sure to post it here.

    Also, good point on the moderating comments. Unfortunately, we do still get some spam on the blog but we can certainly open the comments up and just delete any we notice to be spam.

    • Thanks, Becky – right now, so far as I know, this blog is the only public space to comment and share ideas about ed tech stuff on our campus, so that would be great if it were easier/faster for people to comment and have something like a conversation in almost-real time if they want. Super!

      About GAFE, the last I heard was very discouraging news that made it sound like OU had taken it off the table, but even if it were not being used as an email alternative, but instead were just used to provide the services we do not currently have (like blogging and web publishing), that would be a great thing. And, of course, I think it is so cool about the portfolio approach that you can see Clemson developing with Google Sites. Compared to other portfolio tools (like D2L for example), this puts the portfolio in the student’s hands (as it should be), and they can use a tool like Google Sites to build other websites, making use of it even after they graduate.

      I don’t mind asking my students to create Google accounts in order to make use of Google Sites and other powerful Google tools, but I suspect a lot of faculty are reluctant to do that and some are even under the impression that it is a FERPA violation to do so (although it is not). In any case, I am guessing that without some institutional support for blogging and web publishing, I doubt we will see faculty making much use of those tools, but for interaction and expanding the “space” in which an online class takes place, I cannot imagine trying to teach without student blogs and websites.

  2. Thanks for providing a space for student voices here at your blog, Becky. Since one of the sections here was about online courses, I wanted to comment about the problem which the students focus on: lack of social learning in online courses. It would be useful to do a survey of the many online courses taught at OU right now to see just which courses do involve social learning; I know that student-to-student connections are essential in my classes, but of the several hundred (?) online courses offered each semester at OU, I have no way of knowing (and I suspect no one knows) just how many of those classes put an emphasis on connecting students to students online, in addition to the faculty presence in the course. That would be useful information to have, wouldn’t it?

    Let’s assume, though, that there are low levels of student-to-student interaction in online courses; I think that’s probably a fair assumption, and it matches what the three random students here said about their online courses. The next question, then, is to figure out what the obstacles might be and what solutions OU could implement. I’ve listed below two obstacles below that I think are highly significant:

    Lack of online social learning opportunities for faculty. One of the main reasons faculty find it difficult to teach online is that most of us did not learn online; we learned in a classroom setting. Without experience as online learners to build on, it is very hard for to teach online. So, where can faculty get experience as online learners? Where is the online network for OU faculty to share ideas and develop an online presence? Where are the online workshops that would allow us to see and experience effective online teaching? Nowhere to be found. If you look at the workshops offered by the Center for Teaching Excellence, they are all face-to-face workshops. If we assume that faculty can only learn in face-to-face classes, then how can we expect them to teach online?
    Possible Solution: OU could offer online learning opportunities for its faculty so that they can experience effective online learning for themselves and develop their own online teaching styles and strategies based on that online learning experience. We also need an informal learning network where faculty can share ideas and connect online; an online community of practice would allow faculty to experience for themselves the many dimensions of learning and sharing online.

    Lack of tools that facilitate interaction among students in an online course. If faculty are expected to rely on Desire2Learn, the options for creating interaction among students are very limited. The D2L discussion board is clunky and unengaging, the blogging tool is terrible, and there are no web publishing options to let the students share their work easily with others in the class. Yet if we look around at the social software platforms out there, we can see that while D2L has been standing still, a whole new world of online interaction has come into being, with all kinds of opportunities for people to connect, share, and learn together online.
    Possible Solution: Since faculty feel most comfortable with university-supported tools, the best solution I can think of would be to adopt Google Apps for Education; it offers real tools for blogging and web publishing, along with many other web-based communication options that go far beyond any of the faux social tools available in course management systems like D2L. Many schools and universities have adopted Google Apps for Education (GAFE); you can read more about that here:
    To see Google Apps used for sharing student work, take a look at the exciting Clemson University General Education ePortoflio project, powered by Google Sites:

    Thanks again for making student voices part of the blog here. I hope there will be some follow-up on the problems and concerns they have identified!

    P.S. I am curious why comments are moderated at this blog. Blogging software now catches 95% or more of the spam, so comment moderation is not needed for spam control. Especially given the very low level of commenting at this blog, I find it hard to imagine why comment moderation is needed. I left a comment at a blog post here last week, and that comment is still “awaiting moderation” — nothing controversial in my remarks; instead, it seems nobody is actually moderating the comments. I hope this comment will have a happier fate!