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New Service From Harvard Aims to Replace Classroom Lectures

How can data enhance instruction? Harvard physics professor Eric Mazur, feeling he had reached a limitation with lecture-style teaching, sought to foster greater knowledge assimilation in students through a tool he developed called Learning Catalytics. When students respond to classroom questions, using laptops or mobile phones, Learning Catalytics tracks their answers – and then provides helpful results, such as suggesting ideal pairings for subsequent discussion groups. The tool also uses student analytics to help instructors hone future questions.

"Over nearly 20 years, Mazur has developed an innovative teaching methodology and is now testing software to support its application in any classroom. The basic idea is that the bulk of information consumption should be done outside the classroom and in-class time should be spent doing guided, measured, optimized peer-to-peer discussion in order to maximize retention of knowledge."