WSU Tech Partners With AI Pioneer to Create More Engaging Online Discussions

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Packback’s platform boosts student curiosity and participation; improves discussion quality as classes move online due to COVID-19


Wichita State University Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology (WSU Tech) today announced a new partnership with the inquiry-based discussion platform Packback that will enable instructors and students to access more engaging, dynamic online discussions. As the COVID-19 pandemic reshapes the landscape of higher education, Packback’s unique approach will help WSU Tech enrich online discussions to ensure a meaningful, high-quality learning experience in the wake of the crisis.

“Students were never engaged in the old discussion board formats, but Packback has enabled them to feel more connected to the class -- and, more importantly, to each other,” said Vrendra Pritchard, a faculty member in WSU Tech’s allied health department. “Their platform will enable faculty across WSU Tech to maintain quality and level of engagement in our courses -- by tapping sophisticated technology to bring more creativity and curiosity to online discussion.”

The initiative comes at a time when colleges and universities across the country are working to grow and strengthen online offerings, as they navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, WSU Tech froze tuition for the 2020-21 academic year, and also waived all online fees for its summer semester courses, reflecting the institution’s ongoing commitment to affordability and student success.

“At WSU Tech, our students are at the center of everything we do,” said Dr. Sheree Utash, President of WSU Tech. “We are excited to bring this innovative solution to enhance our online classes and overall student experience.”

Founded by college students and backed by entrepreneur Mark Cuban, Packback uses proprietary AI and machine learning technology to provide inquiry-based online discussion to over 2,000 instructors and over 450,000 students, who have posted 12 million questions and responses to date. A soon-to-be-released study conducted in partnership with 10 higher education institutions indicates that students in classes that use Packback are more likely to be engaged in discussion, and are also more likely to report higher levels of satisfaction and higher overall course grades.

“Research indicates that the quality of class discussion is closely related to student engagement and academic performance,” said Kasey Gandham, co-founder of Packback. “WSU Tech is doubling down on its efforts to support students during this crisis by creating online programs that are not only accessible and affordable, but also engaging and academically rewarding.”

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