Dec 12th: Nearpod

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NearPod is a multiplatform, blended learning e-learning tool that allows students to engage with each other, and the lecturer, in real time, through an online presentation tool. Asynchronous learning can also be carried out using the Student Self-paced Learning facility. It is available via the Apple App Store and Google Play. Nearpod is also available through most web-browsers.

Watch this 5 min YouTube video for a short demonstration:

The School Edition of Nearpod was used for the project detailed below, which incorporated three teacher licences and the total cost was €400 for one calendar year. In this arrangement, each teacher could have up to 100 simultaneous student log-ons and presentation storage of up to 10Gb. A free version is also available with up to 30 simultaneous student log-ons and a limited 50Mb of presentation storage.

pin_rdWho am I?

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My name is Barry Ryan and I am a lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology. For this project, I worked with Undergraduate 1st and 2nd year students on a two year Higher Certificate and a four year honours Bachelor’s Degree in Food and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

 


pin_rdThe Case Study

Rationale

My rationale for using Nearpod was two-fold; practical implementation of the emergent key trends in higher education and an investigation of the potential of Nearpod to enhance the student learning experience.

Recent NMC Horizon Reports cite the higher education adoption of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and flipped classroom learning is imminent (Johnson et al., 2015). I was interested to see if NearPod could address these two key trends in a simple, cost effective way.

Secondly, as a research project, I wanted to investigate if embedding Nearpod into the learning environment could enhance the student learning experience through student centred interactive learning. I thought that, from a learners perspective, embedding engaging technology into the learning environment could enhance the student learning experience as it would allow me, as the lecturer, to adapt the in-class learning activities to the specific learners style, pace and learning needs. I hoped integrating Nearpod would evolve the learning environment towards a student-orientated, social constructivist space where the student(s) took ownership for their participation in the learning activity. Students would become more responsible for constructing their learning ‘product’; created by the students, for the students and, hence, their learning overall (Harel & Papert, 1991).

Practical Application

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In NearPod students interact, engage and participate through facilitated synchronous and asynchronous learning activities created by the academic. These range from slide annotations (the ‘draw it’ function) to quizzes and onto virtual tours supported by the Nearpod technology. In my classes I tended to use the ‘draw it’ function to allow students to annotate prepared slides to, for example, highlighted specific components of biological and chemical molecules. Nearpod quizzes were also used as in class formative assessments. All interactions were collated, in real time, and were shared back to students in class to initiate debate and explore concepts and clarify misconceptions. Each student received a digital copy of all their in-class annotations and quiz responses directly after class to act as a student created learning resource. In my classes students engaged either via the dedicated smartphone app or via the their web browsers. Some students linked their student Google account to their Nearpod account to allow ease of log-in and data storage. Overall, from the academic perspective, the use of Nearpod in class was seamless, presentation files can be easily imported (e.g. from Powerpoint) to act as the Nearpod presentation base and interactive activities can be easily added to the base presentation.

Evaluation

After using Nearpod for one academic year, I used an investigative case study methodology to evaluate the use of NearPod in my teaching practice and was based on best practice and previous publications in this area (Eid & Al-Zuhair, 2015). I focussed on evaluating Nearpod as a constructivist learning tool in terms of student interaction; engagement and participation through NearPod facilitated synchronous and asynchronous learning activities across several years of five programmes grounded in Food and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The investigative evaluation examined the use of NearPod in different learning environments; for example the laboratory, small tutorials and large lecture halls. The evaluation encapsulated a wide variety of student experience and diversity; ranging from large first year classes to smaller, advanced second year modules.

Evaluative data was collected in several forms; anonymous questionnaires of students (n= 30, Yr1; n= 41, Yr2) that experienced NearPod enhanced modules, academic reflective diaries and NearPod data analytics. Qualitative thematic analysis was carried out following Braun and Clarke’s (2006) model and fed into a triangulated data set, ensuring only valid themes emerged.

Key Findings

Overall, the students perceived use of Nearpod and the academics personal reflective writings during the academic year, informed the success of the project. It was noted that the learning environment evolved towards a student-orientated, social constructivist space with four key themes emerging during data reduction;

Interactive Learning

Positive findings included the ubiquitous positive correlation between the use of Nearpod and student perceived interactive learning. Students noted that they felt like they experienced a one-to-one learning experience, even in a large lecture hall environment. However, some students did struggle with the distractive nature of the technology and staying on task.

Technology

 

An unexpected finding was how battery intensive a Nearpod class was on a typical smartphone or tablet. Students commented that a Nearpod class could leave their device drained of battery, even if the battery was fully charged at the start of class. The teaching spaces used during this study had limited charging stations and as such students were reluctant to engage with Nearpod intensive sessions fully. Wifi accessibility was also problematic with students often forced to use their own smartphone data package to interact. Conversely, student evaluations rated the ease of app use, seamless use across multiple device types (smartphone, tablet and laptop) as a simple way to engage and interact with their classmates and lecturer, as very high.

Impact on Learning

Nearpod was noted, by those that responded to the evaluative survey, as having a positive influence on their learning. For example, 43% (Yr1) and 68% (Yr2) students cited a Nearpod class as being the most engaging and interactive in comparison to a traditional lecture or blended (alternative technology enhanced class and traditional lecture). Furthermore, 47% (Yr1) and 78% (Yr2) noted that Nearpod had a positive impact on their understanding of the module curriculum.

Student Ownership

Some students struggled with the use of Nearpod in class, not from a technology point of view, but from a pedagogy aspect. The use of Nearpod moved classroom learning to a student centred, interactive approach. Students had to engage and contribute in order to build their lecture notes. This forced the students to become producers of knowledge, rather than consumers, and many students struggled with this approach. Those that adapted well noted how they felt challenged, but supported, during in-class activities and they felt their contributions to class activities (and associated discussions) were important.

nearpod-pros    nearpod-negatives

Recommendations for Practice:

Several recommendations for practice emerged over the course of the academic year. These are both student-based (mainly from the investigative case study) and academic derived (based mainly on reflections on practice).

Student-based:

Blended approach: Over-use of any approach in a classroom environment will lead to student indifference. A subtle blend of different teaching approaches and technology adoption will appeal to the wider student populous.

Accessibility: If you are using an app that will run on a smartphone/tablet, ensure that there are sufficient devices within the student group. Not everyone will have a (smart)phone; a suggestion here is to ask students to work in pairs, or small groups, so everyone can engage with the technology.

Connectivity: Internet connectivity is crucial for many apps, including Nearpod. Students may not wish to use their own data plan to engage with the in-class app, so ready access to Wifi is crucial.

Digital Resources: Use the in-class student generated resources as learning and revision resources. These resources can be merged into a class resource, or maintained as individual, personal resources.

Assessment integration: NearPod can, in the correct circumstances, be used as both a summative and formative assessment tool. Integrating assessment into the Nearpod activities will increase the student engagement, however, care must be taken not to exclude students (e.g. those without smartphones).

Academic:

Pedagogy before Technology: Make sure you use it for the right reason; remember, pedagogy before technology! Additionally, align the activities to the learning outcomes for the module to increase student buy-in.

Test drive with the free licence: If you are interested in using Nearpod in your class, try it out with a small student group initially, using the free licence. This will ensure you are comfortable with the technology and will also iron out some of the inevitable technical issues such as student log-on etc.

Liaise with IT department: Work with your IT department to let them know, in advance, that multiple, simultaneous network log-on attempts will take place during your class. This may put pressure on your institutes network and can result in students being unable to log onto the network.

Engage with the online community: There is a large online community that is very easy to connect with through the dedicated webpage; https://nearpod.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/community. Here you will find like-minded academics and teachers who openly and freely share their Nearpod based teaching and learning practice.

glasses imageReferences

Braun, V. & Clarke V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77-101.

Eid, N. & Al-Zuhair, S. (2015). Evaluation of the use of iPad in Teaching in General Chemistry Lab to Freshman students. Journal of Engineering Science and Technology, 10(2), 249-257.

Harel, I., & Papert, S. (1991). Software design as a learning environment. Interactive Learning Environments, 1, 1-30.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

pin_rdContact Details 

E: barry.ryan@dit.ie

T: @CBS_Lecturer

twitter_logo_bluePlease do get in touch if you would like to discuss the use of Nearpod in your teaching practice. If you do try out Nearpod, please tweet about your initial feelings using the hashtag #12appsDIT. Finally, comments, critique, collaborations and suggestions all welcome via the comments section at the bottom of the page!

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26 thoughts on “Dec 12th: Nearpod

  1. I can see great value in this tool, but can also understand students’ concerns about the tool being distracting or taking away from actual teaching time. This could, however, be a good way for students to engage with material on their own (on their own time and in their own way) rather than only using it for synchronous engagement in class. I would agree that a more blended approach makes sense here, particularly as a way to initiate early engagement before moving to more ‘traditional’ classroom discussion and/or lecture.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lisa, there is a ‘homework’ option within Nearpod, where you can assign tasks to be completed asynchronously by the student. In the synchronous learning environment the ‘interactive’ element can be used to initiate debate/conversation/dialogue between peers, and the academic. Both are great to get students engaging with the content of the session in a meaningful way.

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  2. This is an interesting approach to student engagement using technology. I can see great value in providing another platform for students to use to engage with material and each other, but also appreciate student concerns that this app might be more distracting than helpful. While certainly not a replacement for in class engagement, it would be a helpful tool to spark some initial discussion or to provide students with a way to move through material in their own way, on their own time, allowing in class learning/lectures to better focus on the material.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very insightful post! Our school has been 1:1 for almost five years now and many teachers use Nearpod regularly. In fact, our building felt so strongly about using this as an interactive/formative assessment tool, they purchased the premium version this year for the entire staff!

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  4. Very useful case study thanks Barry. We will definitely be promoting it within our institute and I think I may incorporate it into our teaching and learning programme for academic staff to demo it and by way of engaging staff.

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  5. Great to see Nearpod featured on this!!
    I have been taking part in a pilot using Nearpod at Ulster University since the start of the Semester and it is great to see that your feedback and issues and are practically identical to my experiences. I love the app and it has really made me think about my teaching practice and the student experience. Adapting a flipped classroom approach means you can ensure that the key concepts that the students haven’t been able to grasp can really be focused in on during class time. I have found that Nearpod does enhance student engagement and they also found the activities used during class useful as revision tools when using the self-paced sessions. I am now hoping to utilise it for distance learning teaching as I think it is an ideal platform for this.

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  6. Being in a one-to-one school, we are always encouraged to integrate technology where we can. Nearpod seems like a pretty easy way to integrate technology to actually impact student learning. We are also a Google school, so its integration with Google Classroom is a big selling point.

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  7. Thanks for the very helpful video and for your analysis. Addressing the “physical” limitations (battery life) and using a blended approach would allow for a great way to integrate technology.

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  8. Sorry to post this comment regarding Nearpod a couple of days later but I have been using and TESTING Nearpod for two years, sharing the empirical data with the folks at Nearpod for review. I love Nearpod and have been “fine tuning” my best practices for its use in a general lecture course of 70 undergraduates (from all majors on campus). I have two comments based on this use. (1) I conducted a two week classroom experiment (mid semester) testing two sections of the same course with identical numbers of students, taught on the same days of the week in the same room by the same professor in “back to back” time periods with a 15 minute period between the two classes. The distribution of gender and year in school varied between the two samples. One class received iPads for Nearpod (no other device permitted) and the other “control group” class attended to my content as they typically would during any class meeting. Results suggest a statistically significant increase in the attitudinal measures of: course satisfaction, self-reported engagement, and course interactivity. Based on results of multiple choice quizzes following each lecture, the Nearpod class quizzes scores were slightly higher as compared to the “control group” but not significant statistically. While I still need to work on how to enhance asseessment and learning with Nearpod, I still believe that this outcome is interesting given the popular argument from some that in ANY case, mobile devices are detrimental to learning. I disagree and believe more evidence is required before one could make that conclusion for face to face class meetings. (2) Although Nearpod provides a battery of fantastic interactive tools for students, I found that it is best used when the professor strategicially arranges and times the Nearpod sides/activiteis with some thought. For example, students enjoy slide shows where they have control on what they are viewing. They can be frustrated with a professor-controlled pace of presentation. And, while it’s cool that a Nearpod school license provides the option for students to take notes on their device with each slide (then have the notes emailed to them after class) many students say it’s difficult to type those notes on an iPad. Mobile phones would presumably be even more challenging to take notes while viewing Nearpod slides.

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