Student-created program introduced in classrooms

NPulse, developed by three students, looks to make learning more interactive

Amin Nikdel, one of the three students who created NPulse.
Amin Nikdel, one of the three students who created NPulse.

A new opportunity for blended learning is being tested in classrooms today.

NPulse, an online program set to be tested in today’s PSYCH 100 lecture, aims to bridge the gap that may develop between students and professors in larger classes.

Blended learning incorporates traditional lecture-style classrooms with online interaction through forums, iClickers and other interactive elements.

Blended learning was first introduced at Queen’s in 2011, in order to accommodate high enrolment and space constraints in classes. PSYCH 100 and GPHY 101 were the first classes to feature online lectures.

Since then, features of blended learning have been incorporated into MATH 121, BIO 102 and GNDS 125.

The mobile-friendly site serves as a replacement to the traditional iClickers and TurningPoint Clickers, which cost upwards of $50 each.

NPulse is currently free to all students and professors. Students would have to pay a fee if they go over the amount of data used on the app.

Students can sign into NPulse online to participate in online class discussions, pose questions to the professor, record their lectures and rate their learning experience during the class.

Amin Nikdel, CompSci ’14, developed the program with two other students. He said they began the development process following the Queen’s Startup Summit last February, where they came up with the idea.

“We have two focuses [for the app]. One is that students [should] pay more attention in class and always analyze their learning,” he said, “and one for teachers to actually change their own teaching style.” Nikdel said his group developed the app to enter a specific market.

He said his team consulted several Queen’s professors to determine how they felt about blended learning. When asked about iClickers, most said they were unsatisfied with the technology for encouraging student participation.

“Students don’t want to raise their hands and ask questions in a big classroom. With [NPulse] they can ask a question online,” he said.

Nikdel added that students can remain anonymous when asking questions.

“Anonymous students can rate their professor in real time,” he said. “If you log in through Facebook or Google you get a detailed summary of your own personal attendance.” A graph shows at which points during the lecture attention declined, he added, so the professor is aware of when students are confused.

Nikdel said he plans to further his research on the benefits of blended learning.

“Maybe NPulse won’t have the impact we think it will, because maybe students like learning the way they do,” he said, “but it wasn’t like we built this just for fun.”

Scott Whetstone, learning technology analyst at Queen’s, previewed the app. He said it has the potential to innovate students’ learning experience.

“If it’s used properly it can really help promote more active learning,” he said. “It can create more dialogue within a larger class setting.”

He said that the “understanding” element of the app stood out.

“If the professor wants to go back and see at what points students loose interest … without having to ask a question. That’s something I found unique,” he said.

Whetstone said some larger classes at the University are currently interested in the app, adding that it could have a successful future.

“It’s a great product and it’s got a lot of promise. It’s something I will be exploring further to see what the potentials are,” he said.

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