Knowing that her psychologically exhausted students needed a break from screen-based group work in a fully online MBA course, Katie McCarthy was eager to find a way to reinforce their learning without wearing them out. “I could see my students’ stress,” Katie shared. “I wanted to use web-based tools to reinforce ways of thinking while giving them a break from virtual group work.”
To meet this need, Katie experimented with both Mindmeister and Lucidchart to help her students think both conceptually and categorically.
Early in the term Katie asks students to practice making decisions in healthcare administration using three different frameworks. If her students were meeting together on campus, they would have practiced this decision-making by moving around a large classroom, using different spaces in the room to talk about each framework. But knowing that her graduate students, who are also working professionals, have screen fatigue and are worn out from constant collaboration, she wondered if she could replicate the physical movement from idea to idea by using digital movement from tool to tool in a way that gave students the chance to learn and reflect independently, before coming together to share their findings.
Additionally, Katie wanted tools that gave her students a chance to practice while structurally reinforcing the ways she was teaching them to think. She considered breakout rooms, but realized her students needed more time on their own to think, process, and shape their ideas before sharing them with others. All of these considerations prompted her to try both Mindmeister and Lucidchart.
Mindmeister proved especially useful for concept mapping. The students could group their ideas by theme or concept, which promotes systematic thinking and helps students see connections among ideas. Lucidchart, which organizes content into a variety of visual forms, helped students validate key principles as part of their decision-making: Lucidchart provided a column structure that made it immediately visible whether all key principles were included.
But did it work?
“The students were much clearer in their thoughts,” Katie reflected, even “at a time when I would have expected that to be more challenging.” She noted that the tools helped students bring their thoughts together in a way that wouldn’t happen on a typical discussion board.
In addition, the tools helped Katie give specific constructive feedback. For example, if she saw something in a concept map that the student didn’t mention in their evaluation or subsequent virtual discussion, she could easily point this out: “Did you see this concept in your map?” she could ask, followed by “How does that fit into what you shared within your evaluation or with the class?”
Will Katie use these tools again, even for face-to-face classes?
“Absolutely,” Katie answered. “I may modify how they are used depending on the goals of the course, but the ability to clearly see student thought processes and easily provide specific feedback has been a significant win.”