Chalk and Pixels

A breath of digital into the classroom

By Cristina Terra, Professor of Economics, Academic Director of IMD track, Global BBA. Christina believes that human connection is the most efficient driver of the learning process, and that digital technology may be used as a tool to enhance interaction and participatory learning.

Cristina Terra received the “Daniel Tixier” Pedagogical Experience award.

Digital technologies and social media are revolutionizing our lives. External stimuli are just a click away. They pop up constantly from our smartphones, tablets, laptops, interrupting any attempt to deepen our thoughts and preventing the ennui, which is the antechamber of creativity. Traditional pedagogy, with a professor lecturing in front of resigned students staring the void, does not seem fit to the new generations of students who have a short attention span and cannot handle boredom. This is particularly problematic for teaching economic mathematical models. If a student gets distracted and misses part of an explanation, we may lose him or her for the rest of the lecture. In required courses, particularly, where the topic is not necessarily of interest for some of them, their minds are more liked to wander around.

The pandemics was just the right incentive for me to cross over to a new pedagogical experience. In a nutshell, I have split the classes in two parts: pre-recorded videos with the theoretical explanations, and the face-to-face classes dedicated to answer their questions and to work on exercises together. The idea was to combine the best of both worlds: the good old blackboard and the digital technology.

Each week students had about 60 minutes of videos to watch, split into four to five videos of 10 to 15 minutes each. In this way, it was easier for them to learn the theory step by step, at their own rhythm. At any time, videos can be paused (to refill coffee mugs and refresh the attention) or replayed (better the videos than ourselves in the classroom…). The weekly face-to-face classes, devoted to Q&A and problem solving, were much more interactive and dynamic, which pleased the students (and the professor).

The students would only be able to participate actively in the weekly class if they did watch the videos beforehand. To give them the right incentives, students took a short quiz with 5 multiple-choice questions before each class. The questions were easy, so that anyone who had watched the videos would be able to answer them. The quizzes were part of the final grade, of course, for the incentive scheme to work.

Screenshot of Cristina Terra’s course platform on Moodle

On the practical side, Moodle and Panopto were essential for the implementation of this flipped classroom with pre-recorded videos. I have edited all videos using Panopto, a very intuitive and easy to use software. For the recording, I have invested in a large monitor, a camera, a microphone, and a special light. They do improve the quality of the videos – the built-in camera and microphone of most laptops do not render the same results. All videos, PowerPoint presentations, problem sets, and weekly quiz were available to the students on Moodle. By the way, the support and efficiency of the ESSEC Moodle team were crucial.

It was a lot of work, but totally worth it: the students were very happy. Three features in particular were highlighted by several of them. First, they really enjoyed being able to watch the recorded videos at their own pace, with the possibility of replaying them as many times as they wanted, to make sure they understood everything. Second, they found it easier to concentrate in the more interactive face-to-face classes. Finally, they were forced to work on the course regularly, so that they were always up to date with the material. This point was particularly helpful in the learning process.

I do recommend embracing the digital technology to put it to use in our favor. As the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them…

The 2021 ESSEC Foundation Ceremony at glance

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