Belmont University helps remote learners get ahead with Geekbot

"It's hard to maintain the student-teacher connection via video. It's so impersonal talking on-screen. The medium isn't right for teaching: a profession built on in-person interactions."

James Pierce, Dean, Professor of Experiential Graphic Design

Belmont University is a private university located in Nashville, Tennessee. Like many educational institutions, it has its fair share of teachers, professors, and educators who have been struggling to adapt to remote teaching since the outbreak of COVID-19.

It’s become increasingly difficult for educators to maintain a personal connection with their students as physical distance has increased. And many teachers fear they can’t keep their finger on the pulse of progress and wellbeing.

Personal interactions took a hit from COVID-19

Typical daily interactions — like one-on-one chats either before, during, or after class — used to help teachers build personal connections with their students. In turn, this made it easier for students to feel motivated and engaged in their learning activities.

For many, interpersonal interaction is the foundation of top academic performance. Sadly, remote learning has left most without the chance to connect, all-but-eliminating the classroom’s one-on-one dynamic.

That was until James Pierce had an idea: to use Geekbot to bridge the gap.

Geekbot is helping forge personal connections in a remote-learning world

James set up a survey that automatically sends four check-in questions to students on the days he teaches. As answers remain private, students can respond truthfully, which means James can once again gather open, honest insights into how his pupils are getting on.

To maximize his own learning, James has split the questions into (1) a task-oriented and (2) an emotion-oriented category, asking:

  1. What did you work on since last class?” / “What do you plan to work on today?” — increasing student accountability, making sure his students stay on top of their material and getting a better sense of progress.
  2. Anything blocking your progress?” / “How do you feel today?” — gauging how his students are actually feeling.

Poignantly, James says the second category of questions is making the most significant difference.

“It’s vital for me not only to get an insight into how my students are managing with their work but also to know how they’re feeling. This was something I used to learn in the classroom when we were together in-person. Geekbot has given me a way to recreate that one-on-one student-teacher dynamic, albeit online.”

Geekbot builds personal connections with simple questions

By asking his students, “How Do You Feel Today?” James has been able to track how people are doing, both physically and mentally, all without seeing them in person — or being able to interpret their body language.

Moreover, the fact his students can answer the check-in questions via an app or their laptop has made the experience all-the-more engaging: the survey doesn’t feel like ‘just another assignment.’

…it’s an altogether more personal experience.

As James says, “Students often reply to “What is holding you back?” with such detail that I feel comfortable reaching out to them individually in support. The process almost feels like being back in the classroom, with someone saying, ‘Hey, I’ve been struggling with this since last class. Can you help?'”

Ultimately, James feels his Geekbot questionnaire is delivering three core benefits:

  1. It’s giving his students a podium: until he introduced his Geekbot survey, James could go months before discovering someone was struggling with a topic; that’s no longer the case. Even more shy students are happy to talk about their struggles, and now, James can help solve issues before they grow into something more severe.
  2. It’s shedding new light on class-wide concerns: when several students mention a specific subject, it prompts James to host a class-wide discussion to address common concerns. This gives James confidence that all of his students have a good enough grasp of every topic, not just the people who ask about it.
  3. It’s increasing class engagement: James likes the fact his mandatory questions, which arrive a few times a week, get his students to front-up to the topics they’re struggling with. This helps create a sense of self-awareness, which encourages students to admit to themselves when they need support.