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How is Student-Centered Instruction Different than Traditional Instruction?

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By in Classroom, Content Development, Course Redesign, IMPACT, Professional Development, Uncategorized on .

Student-centered learning looks at where students are when they enter the classroom and attempts to customize teaching to allow students some freedom in choosing how to learn. This kind of teaching allows instructors to free themselves from the traditional lecture and allows them to change the learning space to one that best fits the needs of the student. Students are led to what they need to know instead of listening to someone tell them and they can become actively engaged in their learning.

What has been for some, a liberating style of teaching and learning, frees instructors by allowing them to lead the adventure instead of dispensing it. It is not unusual for instructors to struggle with the transition in the beginning and many feel as if they are giving up some control, which is not inaccurate. However, giving up some control allows students to become actively engaged. Learning can reach new heights without limit. More focus is often put on the quality of students questions instead of the quality of their answers. Higher order thinking skills are engaged since students are able to keep moving towards a goal, work together, ask questions and build on what they know. According to John Dewey in his book entitled How We Think, he notes deep thinking takes time and cannot be expected to happen when prompt answers are required (Dewey,1910). Student-centered learning allows students to make those higher order connections by giving students time to explore and be actively involved in their learning.

This change in the dynamic of the classroom can often intimidate those new to the process, but I liken it to a typical lab experience often seen as a normal part of many lecture courses. That shift instructors feel when they go from lecture-based courses to a lab class is the shift they are referring to in student-centered instruction, switching from dispenser to facilitator and learners going from passive to active learning. Most of the instructor’s work happens before the lab begins with perhaps a pre-lab, setting up the equipment, making sure students stay on task by outlining lab report requirements and having students turn in documentation showing what they have done. This is student-centered learning. The instructor set up the experience and then sits back and let them experience it. There is no lecturing during a lab, yet students learn. Learning through active engagement helps students better relate what they are doing to what they already know resulting in higher levels of retention and comprehension (Angelo & Cross, 1993).

Although not a new concept, some may struggle with the shift to the student-centered approach. Taking this familiar concept and applying it to the lecture part of a course is something many might find foreign. Many others have found it worth their time in making the transformation in everything they teach because many students are more engaged and respond much better to being an active participant in their learning. Other students though who were counting on putting in seat time for another lecture series while chatting on their phone, napping or doing other things have been found to resist the expectation they engage.  Each instructor needs to decide what is best for their learners, but keep in mind there is no one right way to create a student-centered environment. Your subject material, student population, and personal comfort level should all be taken into consideration.

The IMPACT Program at Purdue University provides resources and support for instructors to redesign their course in a student-centered way. The comfort level of the faculty member is of utmost importance and nothing is imposed without the instructor initiating the desire for change.

On April 10th, IMPACT will be hosting Eric Mazur who will be talking about how he transformed his course from lecture to student-centered. Faculty, staff, and students are invited to attend.



Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers.

Dewey, J. (1910). How We Think. New York: D.C. Heath & CO.

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Flipping With Interactive Video Through TED-Ed

By in Uncategorized on .

Flipping the classroom requires students to gather information outside of class, generally through reading or watching recorded lectures. As flipping the classroom gains momentum, instructors are increasingly looking for ways to engage students in online content so that students will be prepared and ready to participate in class. The material presented must not only provide the necessary background information for the classroom activity, but it must interest the students as well so that they actually engage with it. After all, the flipped classroom model doesn’t work if the students don’t come to class prepared with the knowledge they’ll need to participate.

Video is a popular method of presenting content online, and TED-Ed is offering a way to turn TED Talks and YouTube videos into an interactive teaching opportunity. TED-Ed Lessons provide pre-made interactive videos, with the added advantage of allowing the instructor the ability to modify them to fit their own teaching style. Instructors can also create their own interactive videos using a video from YouTube.

These interactive videos turn passive video watching into an active learning experience. The videos can contain multiple choice and open-ended questions, connect to a class discussion, and link to additional information. With good questions and supplemental materials for further exploration, these interactive videos can encourage higher level thinking skills, which will increase the chance that students will be ready to actively engage in the flipped classroom.

The multiple choice questions are automatically graded, so students are provided immediate feedback. Students then have the opportunity to retry any questions they answer incorrectly. Instructors can also offer a video hint, which allows students to review the video before retrying the question, and may discourage guessing. Open-ended questions are sent to the instructor to review.

There are two options for obtaining interactive videos from TED-Ed:

OPTION 1: Find a pre-made interactive video

TED ed lessons

To find appropriate interactive videos, the instructor can filter by content (TED originals, TED Talk Lessons, and TED-Ed Selects), student level (elementary through college and beyond), and duration (3-18 minutes). These videos are also grouped by topics (arts, mathematics, science & technology, etc.) and series (inventions that shape history, how things work, math in real life, etc.).

OPTION 2: Create your own interactive video

TED ed videos

Instructors can also create their own interactive videos using any TED Talk video or YouTube video. These interactive videos provide options like Watch (view the video), Think (create multiple choice and/or open-ended questions), Dig Deeper (add related content for students to explore), Discuss (create a discussion), and And Finally(provide closing thoughts or something to ponder to add closure to the lesson). This last option, And Finally, could also be used as the preparation for the class lesson that follows. The instructor can delete any of these functions, except watch. Once the video is finished, the instructor simply shares the URL with his or her students. The instructor can choose to keep the lessons private or distribute them publicly and can choose whether to allow others to customize the lesson.

Some considerations:

A user must create an account to generate lessons and to participate in the interactive aspects of the video. Users must be thirteen to create an account. Lessons viewed, lessons started, lessons completed, lesson drafts, and lessons created are tracked in the user’s account. Instructors can also track student activity, feedback from students, and feedback from educators. This feedback can allow instructors to revise their videos as necessary in order to ensure that they are meeting student needs.

TED-Ed is providing an interesting tool that may encourage student engagement outside of class and track student progress in one convenient package. It provides an active learning experience that encourages accountability through tracked student interaction. TED-Ed’s interactive videos may make flipping classrooms just a little bit easier and perhaps more interesting for the students.

Using Apps to Navigate Purdue and the Surrounding Community

By in Hiring, Musings on Technology, Tools, Uncategorized on .

When I moved to Indiana almost two years ago, I was overwhelmed trying to find my way around until I came across some helpful digital apps. There are many official and unofficial apps related to Purdue University but I am going to share the ones that worked best for me in the operating systems I use.

Purdue Maps appPurdue maps shot

The most helpful was Purdue Maps, available free on Android. While other apps have maps, what made this one useful is this is all it does. One tap and it shows me right where I am on campus. After typing in where I need to go, it shows me my destination with a dot. All I have to do is follow the map to match the dots.  I still use this app nearly two years later.

Purdue walkPurdue walk shot

The other issue you run into as someone new to campus is not knowing how long it takes to go from one part of campus to another. Purdue Walk, free on Android, assisted with this. You tell it your starting and ending points and it tells you how long it takes to get there at various walking speeds. When I have needed to calculate what time I need to leave to make an appointment or if I need to drive to make it over walking, this app has been extremely helpful.

YalpYelp screen shot

Learning my way around West Lafayette and Lafayette became much easier after utilizing Yelp (free for both Android and IPad). If you haven’t heard of Yelp, it is an app that reviews businesses and includes maps to find them. You get to hear from others who have been there and discover which businesses have received good reviews. It also knows where you are and can tell you what businesses are close to you and related to what you need, such as car repair or a grocery store. Yelp also allows you to look businesses up ahead of time, and bookmark them to find them more easily when you need them.

Starbucksstarbucks screen shot

I must also include the very important Starbucks app (free on Android and Ipad) which is perfect when you only have your phone and really need coffee, tea, or a snack. The app works by having you pay ahead and it can subtract your purchase from your account. It also has maps to nearby Starbucks and will inform you if they are currently open.

What apps have you found to be helpful for those new to Purdue?

My Favorite Three Research Related Apps

By in Mobile, Musings on Technology, Tools, Uncategorized on .

As a PhD candidate and an Educational Technologist for ITaP, I rely on technology to keep myself organized at work, to collect research materials for my dissertation, and to keep track of things I find for my personal life. Here are three of my favorite apps and why I found them to be so helpful.

1)  Evernote icon  Evernote: This free data management system assists in keeping track of three areas of my life: work, school, and home. Each area has its own folder within Evernote. A paid account gives you a defined large storage space. The free version recharges your account monthly with storage space.

Evernote is:

*Accessible on the platforms and devices I use, Mac/PC, and Android.

*Backed up on the cloud.

This application has:

* Tagging for organization

*The Web Clipper extension in Chrome, which allows you to turn a web page into a note.

*The ability to convert an email message into a note in Evernote.

*The ability to record and save audio in a note.

Additional Notes

I use the tags to keep myself organized while writing my dissertation. If I find a resource I need to remember when writing Chapter 2, I can tag it as such. I can also add a “Chapter 1” tag as well so I remember to mention it in my background. I can also give it a topic or author tag so when I want all resources related to any topic or person, with one click, I have them.

I have a notebook for work. I created tags for all projects, meetings, notes, tools, and events I need to follow. I can find them and add to them wherever I am, even if all I have is my phone and the Evernote app.

I have another notebook in Evernote for personal resources such as recipes and bookmarks. Entering recipes makes them accessible anywhere I am near technology. When I find a resource my daughter might enjoy, I tag it with her name.

Anything that can use sorting or quick referencing anywhere is a great fit for Evernote. A getting started guide is here: https://evernote.com/getting_started/


Example of Evernote

2) Mendeley_Logo_Vertical  Mendeley: I have found immense success in using Mendeley as a tool to not only collect research related resources but to search files of the scholars who contribute to the Mendeley collection.

Mendeley allows you to:

*Connect to scholars with similar research interests.

*Join groups based on your research interests.

*Connect with colleagues and share resources.

*Have your journal collection accessible and backed-up on the cloud.

*Connect with your materials using the app.

*Organize your articles with tags.

*Monitor a folder on your desktop to import any journal you save right into the tool.

*Connect directly to Word with an embed feature.

Additional Notes

I have found I need to review what I import to Mendeley because it does not always collect the citation information accurately. Once I have verified for accuracy, the citation can be copied to your clipboard and imported into a document. Mendeley also is friendly to the “drag and dropped” file. You can drop files into the tool and drag citations out of the original Mendeley file.

Mendeley is a free web-based tool. The app is also free but you need to use the web-based tool to connect with scholars and interact with peers. Your files update every time you open the application.

Mendeley Online Example

Mendeley Online Example


3) easybib_twitterlogo EasyBib online is a fee-based tool when used on the web but the app for Android and iPad is free. I do not use the web-based part of this tool. The app is helpful when I find a resource such as a physical book I would like to remember later. Opening the app immediately opens your phone or tablets camera, prompting you to take a picture of the books bar code. It then looks up several possible matches, allowing you to select the correct choice. You can also look up books according to title. The application saves a list of all things you looked up on just that device, making it an accurate but temporary repository for books you want to find again. This one feature is all the free application does but it has proven to be extremely useful, quick, and easy to use, on several occasions. Since there is no cloud storage of your information, I suggest utilizing the citation as soon as possible.

EasyBib app example

EasyBib app example

If you know of additional apps useful for the busy graduate student/mom/Ed Tech at Purdue, please share them in the comments section.