* Hotseat
* Student-produced YouTube video on Hotseat
* Hotseat video
* Sugato Chakravarty

November 2, 2009

Hotseat lets students Facebook, Tweet in class to improve learning

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - College students have always talked about their classes, and lately the conversations have moved to Facebook, Twitter and text messages, often during the class lecture itself.

Now, in a clever bit of educational jujitsu, an application developed at Purdue University uses those backchannel conversations to improve the students' learning.

"Hotseat is really sort of subversive in a delightful way, taking technologies more often used for things like dating or spontaneous get-togethers, and applying them to learning," says Gerry McCartney, chief information officer and vice president for information technology. "Just like CNN or ESPN offer additional information at the bottom or sides of the telecast to engage the viewer, we're using Hotseat to inform and engage the students."

Hotseat is a software application that captures student comments about a class and allows everyone in the class to view those messages, including the professor and teaching assistants. Students can post messages to Hotseat using their Facebook, MySpace or Twitter accounts, or they can send text messages or simply log into the Hotseat Web site.

Currently being pilot tested in two Purdue courses, the application has become a favorite of both instructors and students.

Sugato Chakravarty, professor and department head of Purdue's Department of Consumer Sciences and Retailing, has used Hotseat in his CSR342 personal finance class.

"Hotseat is turning out to be a nice innovation. I'm seeing students interact more with the course and ask relevant questions," Chakravarty says. "The tool allows us to engage students using media they are already familiar with."

Although students in the pilot courses are not required to use Hotseat, so far in the pilot 73 percent of the more than 600 students enrolled in the classes are participating.

Chakravarty says that although the tool has been successful, it does require an open-minded instructor.

"The tool is called 'Hotseat,' and it does give students a lot of power," Chakravarty says. "In one class I mentioned the wrong president during the 1929 depression and immediately about a dozen comments came in correcting me.

"I don't have a problem with students correcting me or challenging me; this shows the students are engaged. But not every professor may embrace this aspect."

Students in the class most often use Hotseat to ask questions about the material that they don't care to ask in class. For example, following a recent lecture on financial bonds, students posted these discussion topics:

* "Do the junk bonds have a higher par value to make up for the additional risk taken by the bond purchaser?"

* "So I want to buy bonds while interest rates are HIGH so that the bond price is low?"

* "What would be considered a good interest rate for bonds currently?"

Some students inject a bit of humor into their questions:

* "Do bonds have a lifespan? Example, you have a relative who died and as you clean out their basement you find bonds for a gold mine in the 1930s that no longer exists."

* "Are bail bonds also a form of bonds to invest or are they only there to be used to get a drunken buddy out of jail?"

* "Are 'bonds' the pieces of paper that are so often stolen in movies? Like, 10 sheets = $3million? And Jodie Foster has to hide in the panic room?"

And, of course, being college students, they sometimes put a completely different spin on the class discussions:

* "Craig is the most bad### bond"

Chakravarty says the open, Web 2.0 nature of the tool means that the content isn't always closely controlled.

"The students say pretty much whatever they want," Chakravarty says. "But this is a valuable tool for enhancing learning. The students are engaged in the discussions and, for the most part, they are asking relevant questions."

Lead developer Kyle Bowen, director of informatics at Purdue, says students can post messages from a variety of social media sites.

"We're not asking them to go to a new destination or use a new technology. We're letting them work on their studies from where they already live digitally," Bowen says. "Hotseat is also flexible enough that if there is a new social media tool that becomes popular we can add that, too."

As an advanced Web 2.0 technology, Hotseat requires the extra bandwidth provided by Purdue's new campus network, which is being developed and deployed in a partnership with Cisco and Verizon Wireless. The network, and Hotseat, are expected to be fully deployed across the West Lafayette campus during the 2010-11 academic year.

A student-produced video on Hotseat is available at

A promotional video on Hotseat is available at

The Hotseat Web site is

Writer: Steve Tally. 765-494-9809,

Sources: Gerry McCartney, 765-496-2270,

Sugato Chakravarty, 765-494-6427,

Kyle Bowen, 765-496-7486,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: A student-produced video on Hotseat, as well as a promotional video, are available on YouTube.

To the News Service home page

Newsroom Search Newsroom home Newsroom Archive