Friday, March 25, 2016

Virtual Office Hours and Study Sessions

Beside being a flipped educator, where I flip my courses for my students, I have now added virtual office hours and study sessions to the list of things I do for my student. My students are 1-1 this year, so every student has at least a ChromeBook or a MacBook. I have been using virtual office hours and study sessions all year, and a little last year, but I am most excited about them recently. Having discovered the Limnu App, which I will explain about later, I feel that I have taken the office hours and study sessions to a new level. The students really enjoy working with the Limnu App.

The Limnu App is an interactive whiteboard that an unlimited number of people can work on at once. This whiteboard has a vast range of applications where it can be used. I first discovered this app in early February, 2016, and immediately started using it during the weekly study sessions. Pretty soon after, one of the designers of the app, reached out to me, after I tweeted about the 1st time I used it with students, and since then, has had regular communication with me. The developers want to make it the best product they can, and continuously wants feedback from its users. The latest addition is why I write this blog.

Within the last couple of weeks, I received an email from one of the developers of the app, informing me about a new addition to the app. The new addition are called pins. When a student works on the whiteboard, they can pin their name, which allows me to quickly click on the pin (that show on the right) and find that students work. Last Thursday, March 17, was the first time that I was able to use and see the pins in action.

Here is how the study sessions/virtual office hours work. I announce to the my students the date and time that I am available for me to meet with them in the evenings. The time is usually late evening on any given night. My students are in so many other activities, I pick times that are after sports practice, music practice, and family dinner time. The time is usually 8-9 PM, 9-10 PM, or even 8-10 PM.

The students are made aware of the study session times via either a Remind that I send, an email, or/and the agenda in PlanBook. Both of first two include a link to the Today's Meet Session for that evening. Once the students are in the Today's Meet session, I then post the link to the Limnu board that I have opened as well. Not all students do the Limnu board, and not all students do the Today's Meet. The Limnu board has a chat within it as well. Students then have the hour (or 2 hours) to ask me any question that they want. Sometimes, I create a special Study Session Problem Set that students will do on the Limnu Board with me and their peers watching. The students often will correct each other, give feedback, give ideas, give compliments, etc to their peers as they work. Other students ask clarifying questions in the Today's Meet session.

I was so excited about last week's study session because of the pins. I quickly taught my students to put a pin with their name and problem number they were working on. I was able to just click on a name, and it took me right to their work. This is exciting because with the white board having no boundaries, the students would work all over the place and sometimes I couldn't find them. Now the pins ensure that I see every student that is working, and where they are working. When students started a new problem, either one I give them or one they create, and after getting the smiley face from me, they would either, erase their work, and start with a new problem, delete their pin, and start a new pin, or just move elsewhere on the board, leaving the work, and start a new pin with a new number. At one time, I had about 20 students working on the board, so the pins helped greatly.

On my end, I usually have 3 devices going. The Limnu board is on my iPad, my Mac has the Today's Meet Session Chat displayed and on my Chromebook, the Limnu board chat displayed. I have included pictures of all of the above. I always leave the study sessions feeling connected to my students, pleased with being able to help my students, and thrilled that the students take advantage of these situations. The students always comment to me the next day how much the study session helped. Sometimes, when the material is harder, the students ask for additional study sessions. I always oblige them. I love helping and being available this way for my students.

Here are the pictures of that evening:
All three devices and work station!

The Limnu Board with several student pins!

The Today's Meet Session in the beginning.

The Limnu Board Chat Session displayed!

A copy of the Study Session Problem Set!

Since I am blogging about this after the summative assessment was given, I am happy to report that the median score on this assessment was a 35/38. That median score was much higher than I have seen on this assessment since I started flipping this course, 4 years ago. The students really knocked this out of the park. I will be revisiting this assessment to see how I can alter it to make it even more higher order or perhaps an alternate assessment. 


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  2. Can you set your pupils homework on Limnu so that they can work on it independently at a later date and submit the work to you later to review? Thanks. Mark