Monthly Archives: September 2014

Can Technology Fix the Lecture?

shutterstock_160647422A professor stands in the front of the class and delivers a lecture. Students may jot down notes—they may not. A discussion may occur—it may not. Questions may be asked—they may not. Students take exams, write papers, complete class evaluations, and receive grades. We hope they learn.

While this model of the college lecture may not be going the way of the dodo quite yet, even major research institutions—historically more concerned with obtaining grants than teaching undergraduates—are starting to get on the accountability bandwagon. As pressure grows for universities to show that their graduates walk away from college with more than a parchment and debt, more administrators and instructors are looking to data to improve student learning.

The lecture’s critics claim the teaching model is nothing more than a cheap way for colleges to deliver information to large numbers of students, a curse to researchers duty-bound to teach and a chore to withstand for fidgety undergraduates. It is no wonder that as the price tag for an undergraduate education rises, so does attention to quantifiable results, and one of the first practices being examined is the lecture.

To address the issue, some campuses use clickers to gauge student comprehension during lectures. Via remote control, the devices allow professors to test understanding by posting responses to questions instantly. However, more sophisticated ways to garner data are being developed.

The University of Michigan uses LectureTools, a program that allows students to follow lecture slides on their own devices as it collects data that measure their reactions to the lecture. Students can take notes right on the lecture slides, respond to questions, and ask questions in real time. The application’s inventor, Prof. Perry Samson of the University of Michigan, designed the tool so that instructors could use actual data to gauge the effectiveness of their teaching. As a professor pulled between research and teaching, he understands his colleagues’ reticence in adopting new technology, so he designed the tool to mesh with individual teaching styles.

Instituting large-scale changes to such an entrenched model of learning as the lecture will not be easy. Ordering professors to change doesn’t work, says Martha E. Pollack, a provost at the University of Michigan. To sweeten the pot, some universities offer grants in hopes that framing new learning approaches as research opportunities will appeal to professors. The goal is not to proscribe one way of teaching but to excite professors about innovation, she says.


What are your thoughts about lecturing? Share your experiences with us!


Source: Kolowich, S. (2014, August 11). Can universities use data to fix what ails the lecture? The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from



Students Turn Off Phones in Class and Like It…”Pink Ghetto” of PR Pays Off for Women…Bookless College Library—New Trend?

shutterstock_150957437Students Turn Off Phones in Class and Like It

What happened when a college instructor asked students to voluntarily turn off cell phones during class? Increased focus, more note taking, and greater participation (in lieu of furtive checks to phones on laps!) Surprisingly, the students loved it. All it took was offering a little extra credit. When asked about how they benefitted from parting with their phones, students said they concentrated better and felt the classroom was more respectful.

“Pink Ghetto” of PR Pays Off for Women

Women dominate public relations, making up 63 percent public relations specialists and 59 percent of public relations managers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What’s more, women in these positions make a good living. Although female PR specialists still earn considerably less than their male counterparts in the same positions, the average salary of $55,705 per year provides a respectable wage and a great career option.

Bookless College Library—New Trend?

A new college in Lakeland, Florida, has opened its doors to an odd sight: a library without books. Students at Florida Polytechnic University will have access to 135,000 e-books but won’t be able to cruise the stacks or practice their Dewey decimal skills. Librarians will train students in managing digital materials and steer them to tutoring resources. Many see plusses in this model, including easy access to resources. However, preserving information as technology changes may prove more challenging.


What do you think about offering extra credit for turning off cell phones, the “pink ghetto” of PR, or bookless libraries? Please post your comments!

Purrrrrfect Case Studies: Cat Cafés and Entrepreneurialism

Posted by Dana Loewy


Usually our case studies are brief easy-to-use mini cases. Kicking Back at Café Neko is one such short scenario.

But I thought I’d also share a longer scenario, which you can use in your classrooms in a number of ways. Introducing: Starting a Cat Café: A Crazy Business Idea?

I chanced upon cat cafés when I was researching crowdfunding and openly admit that my own fixation with felines originally drew me to the topic. However, the more I learned, the more I saw that this situation might lure students to think critically and provide instructors with a rich, real-life business case.

Whether or not you love cats as I do, I hope you will find that both scenarios are interesting, challenging, and even fun activities for your students.

Cuteness aside, pets are serious business in the United States: Americans shell out more than $56 billion per year for their animal companions.

Short Assignment: Cafe Neko 
Café Neko, Vienna, the first European cat café
Cat cafés, a.k.a. cafés with cats and cake, are popular in Taiwan and Japan. Café Neko in Vienna, Austria, lends itself to a class discussion face-to-face or online guided by critical-thinking questions. The discussion could be completed orally or in writing, resulting in a short document, for example, an e-mail.

Long Assignment: Starting a Cat Café: A Crazy Business Idea? Report/Proposal/Business Plan
Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium now open in London
One of the intriguing features of this venture is the owners’ social media savvy. The cat café was entirely crowdfunded and has a strong social media presence. This scenario could serve as a basis for a more complex research assignment to produce a report, proposal, or business plan.

To request detailed instructor’s notes and teaching suggestions that accompany each scenario, please drop us a line at

What is your opinion of a pet-themed eatery? Would you want to visit a cat café? Is it a viable business idea that would work in the United States? Please share your views with us by leaving a comment or by writing to