Autumn 2012 / Life on Campus
Get it? Got it. Good!

A new app lets profs track student comprehension in real time


Liam Kaufman

Educators now have a better way to know if they’re getting their point across in the classroom, thanks to an invention by software developer Liam Kaufman (BSc 2011).

Understoodit is a web-based application that lets students anonymously express their bafflement in class. When students load the tool on their smartphones or laptops during class and click a red “Confused” button, their input automatically registers on the professor’s computer, showing what percentage of the class is lost. The teacher can re-explain things in the hope students will hit the green “Understood” button, which then conveys to the professor what percentage has grasped the material.

Kaufman tested the software in three U of T computer science classes this past February. Students embraced the tool – perhaps because it eliminates the fear of looking stupid in class when asking a question, says Kaufman.

But the application was especially well received by the profs, who said they appreciated getting instant feedback to help tweak their delivery. Word-of-mouth buzz led to inquiries from 2,800 educators worldwide within a few months.

Kaufman invited 200 of them to try his prototype. With the help of another software developer and a user-interface expert, he used insights from the expanded test to improve the service – including adding a feature that lets teachers poll students.

Kaufman originally wanted to be a neuroscientist – after earning a BSc in psychology at Western University, he enrolled in medical science at U of T. But at the same time, he dabbled in web design and became hooked; after completing his MSc in 2008, he started a bachelor of computer science, which he finished last year.

He launched the upgraded tool in August and is keeping it free for students; he’s charging teachers a monthly fee of $3, but those who register at understoodit.com before October 3 can use it for free for a year.

View a video demo of how the app works:


Reader Comments

# 1
Posted by Aishwarya on September 15th, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

What a genius of a program! Too bad I don’t have a smartphone…is it possible to incorporate texting a number to a confused or understood status for people without smartphones?

# 2
Posted by Kim Windsor on September 18th, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

This is amazing! This will hopefully reduce the confusion during class, which ends up distracting students from subsequent lecture material. Hopefully lecturers will be able to customize their lecture content or become more aware of common topic weaknesses that students have so instructors can allocate their time more efficiently. I’m sure this will take off in other universities as well.

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