Easy Collaborative Learning – Crowdsource With Your Students

It’s often said that students learn better by teaching others. I was contacted last week by a student wishing to build a SmashFact activity for his study group– SmashFact.com is a free site that helps teachers transfer course content into a mobile study app. The student complained that the course content contained a lot of difficult information, and the class itself was a bit dry. The students were looking for a fun way to study “boring course stuff.” Then it hit me. Why not increase student engagement and collaboration by having the students build a SmashFact activity to test their peers? I know that a faculty member’s time is often split between service work,  research, a ton of writing, publishing AND not to mention teaching and advising. So often there’s little time left for enhancing one’s course to make it more engaging. This way, each student spends just a few minutes creating a handful of multiple-choice questions to stump their peers, and the activity builds itself in time for midterm exams.

So here’s how to quickly get the students up and running after creating a free account on SmashFact.com…
  1. Save a copy of our pre-formatted spreadsheet template from Google Docs Templates. Share the “Student Collaboration Activity” form URL with students. Instructions are included in the template.
  2. Divide students into teams. Each team gets assigned a chapter or unit of the course prior to midterm exam. Each student on the team has to enter 3-4 unique multiple-choice questions about the unit designed to ‘stump’ their peers. Have them enter the questions in the form at the URL you send them. All answers will be compiled on an easy to read spreadsheet. See images below.
  3. Review and approve their questions and answers to make sure they are teaching their peers the proper info. This also offers an opportunity to gauge student understanding on topics to date.
  4. Share the document with support(at)smashfact.com when you are ready. Our support team will upload the questions into your SmashFact activity database and prep the activity for your students. We’ll send you all the information they will need to get the study app on their device.
DONE with a custom aligned activity in time for midterms!!!
The Template form students use to add questions and answers to the activity

The Template form students use to add questions and answers to the activity

Google Template Spreadsheet

The instructor’s view of the first student’s effort in the collaborative activity

Google Sheet Result iPad

A preview (on SmashFact.com) of how the study app looks on a student’s device.

The students can repeat this process through the second half of the semester for Final exams. Once the content is shared with the SmashFact support team, SmashFact loads in fresh content every time the student starts the app. Teachers never have to touch it again. And, future students can use the activity for as long as the class is taught!
When we created SmashFact.com, we set out to make the interface as easy to use as we could at the time. But, in effort to further streamline making an activity, we’ve created a few more solutions. We offer to personally help faculty by converting old tests to study activities (reach out to us below), and, I’ve also created a Google Docs Spreadsheet Template that is pre-formatted to help teaching or grad assistants enter activity questions quickly, and efficiently, whether on teams or working alone. These are good solutions. But, an important one that was missing was student collaboration.
We’re baking more serious collaboration into Version 2 of SmashFact. But, using the Google Docs Template is an easy way to get there until then.