Transition to e-Learning: One Educator’s Resource to Keep Students Engaged

Featuring Helga Olson, MA, MS, CSFA, CSA, Instructor in Surgery, Mayo Clinic

Keeping students engaged in the classroom is among an educator’s top priorities. With the transition to online learning in light of COVID-19, this has become paramount. In this Q&A, hear from Helga Olson, MA, MS, CSFA, CSA, instructor in surgery at Mayo Clinic, on how she uses Pear Deck, an online, interactive tool, to enhance her students’ experiences. At the time of writing, Olson was using the tool in-person, but it can also be used online as students learn remotely. 

What is Pear Deck and how does it work?  

Pear Deck (www.peardeck.com) is a way to turn your presentation slides into interactive activities for students. An instructor can upload Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides to the Pear Deck website to make them interactive. Some of the interactive options include having students enter text, enter a number, or choose from multiple choices, all from their smart phones or computers. There are different pricing levels ranging from free, basic programming, to custom, paid subscriptions that allow for enhanced storage and professional development.  

How do you use Pear Deck?

I was able to transform the way I teach my courses. Before, I mostly used PowerPoint presentations and gave my students notes slides at the beginning of class. Through Pear Deck, students are brought into the lesson in a new way. I embed interactive questions and videos to keep them engaged along the way. Every student now has a chance to participate openly in a lecture by answering questions on the slides through their devices. They are also able to make connections to the lesson that they were missing before.

As an instructor, Pear Deck gave me immediate feedback on what concepts I needed to review more and what my students already knew, based on how students did during these interactive quizzes. Plus, students loved it when I displayed their answers on the board. They would compete to have the very best answers, or in some cases the most comical ones.

What is the value in using this technology? How does it benefit students and instructors?

As instructors, we all face the challenge of how to keep students engaged, especially in the age of social media and advanced technology. We also want to get reliable, formative feedback in a manner that makes students feel comfortable participating. When students respond, the answers can be shared anonymously so only they know who submitted which answer. This allows all students to feel safe in answering, as they know they can’t be singled out for a wrong answer.

I love the interactivity of Pear Deck. My students are fully engaged whenever I use this in class, and they enjoy taking notes, writing or drawing responses, and being able to contribute in the lessons. They enjoy seeing their answers on the screen, and the program allows for so many types of formative assessment, as well as self and peer assessment.

Editor’s Note: The resource highlighted in this article does not imply endorsement or promotion from the ARC/STSA, and is being noted for the sole purpose of information sharing. If you’d like to share your favorite tools or resources with fellow educators, please reach out to Christy Baily-Byers at Christy.BailyByers@arcstsa.org.


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