Class app: Instructor creates tool that lets teachers know what’s working—and what isn’t
John Hickey was teaching his first university-level class at Johns Hopkins when he found he wanted more feedback from his students.
“What I was looking for was more regular input on how I was doing as a teacher, as well as to find out if students understood the material, and if they felt like they were benefitting from in-class activities,” Hickey said.
So the doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering thought like an engineer and invented an app that enables frequent and easy teacher-student interaction.
Available for free from the Apple and Google App stores, Tcrunch provides portals customized for both teachers and students. It not only facilitates real-time communication between both parties, but also analyzes the data collected. Instructors can either evaluate results in the app or have them emailed in the form of an Excel spreadsheet.
Hickey has preloaded the app with questions designed to solicit student feedback and a setting that allows students to provide comments anonymously.
“As an engineer, I know that frequent feedback is critical to improving something, whether it’s an engineering design or teaching,” Hickey said. “It’s not practical for teachers to hand out and collect and analyze dozens of evaluation forms throughout a course, which is why I created Tcrunch.”
Hickey worked on the app for about a year, testing it on students in classes he taught in the fall and during January’s Intersession. The app’s development was funded by the Shark Tank Program at the Center for Educational Resources.
Students not only were cooperative about using the app and sharing feedback, but they also seemed to enjoy the process.
“I told them outright that I was developing an app and needed user feedback to help me make it more successful for other teachers and students, so I urged them to be honest,” Hickey said, noting that in an end-of-semester survey students reported they felt that Tcrunch gave them more of a voice in the classroom.