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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:

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