Interactive learning games, education agents

“The lecture in the auditorium is fleeting”

2020/04/30 by

Josef Wiemeyer is in a class of his own these days. The TU professor of sport science has been working with electronic learning formats for almost 20 years. In the digital summer semester, he can draw on a great treasure trove of materials, tips and experiences that benefit his colleagues as well as his students. He is particularly committed to interactive offers.

Professor Josef Wiemeyer is recording his lecture.

Professor Josef Wiemeyer is well prepared for the digital summer semester. Lecture recordings, Moodle exercises, interactive learning – these are topics that the sports scientist has been working with for a long time, and he has included the different types of games in his own teaching programme. He joined the TU Darmstadt in 1996, and since the early days of e-learning has been researching the formats and possibilities of online learning. With the occasional dash of scepticism. “E-learning is not a miracle cure,” he says. “The idea is to find the right digital format for a particular course.” There is always one particular core problem: “I need to activate and inspire students when learning online.” This is why the sports scientist and sports physician advocates interactive formats above all.

Josef Wiemeyer has been recording his lectures for about ten years. “The lecture in the auditorium is fleeting. Students need to understand it and formulate questions for themselves at the same time. Things get lost,” is his experience. That is why he decided years ago to base his teaching on the principle of the “inverted classroom”. This means he posts his lectures, slides, outlines, e-tests, glossaries and videos on Moodle, the university learning platform, and his students can download the information before the lecture. When it comes to the actual event, students are able to ask questions and discuss topics. “This opens up many more opportunities in the actual lecture, and I have noticed that learning is much deeper and exchanges are more in-depth,” emphasises the professor.

Live chat as a substitute

He will continue with his recordings like this during the digital summer semester, and host live chats as a substitute for being physically present. He will be available to his students on Mondays and Tuesdays during the summer semester to answer any questions they may have. He has also set up a forum to deal with any questions outside these times, and is planning to hold online consultations if required. Seminars with between 20 and 40 participants will be held via Zoom conferences, where everyone can gather to see and hear each other and exchange documents live.

Students will find exercises, educational games and videos on Moodle, the TU learning platform. For his core subject of movement and training, there will be film footage showing movement sequences such as for the high jump. “They are very graphic,” he emphasises. One advantage that sports science has over more abstract subjects.

“Didactically valuable” games

Josef Wiemeyer sprinkles interactive elements in his lectures, seminars and exercises. Students are able to organise movement sequences using images or try out learning games. The professor thinks up questions and answers for “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”. “Like Chris Tarrant,” he jokes. This is time-consuming because the answers, especially the incorrect ones, need to include errors of thought that Josef Wiemeyer will then discuss with his students. “As well as having fun, they should also benefit from these learning games. It has to be didactically valuable.”

Professor Wiemeyer works with many different elements.
Professor Wiemeyer works with many different elements.

“Tutor Tom”

“Tutor Tom” is the brainchild he thought up with a former graduate student. “He” looks like a comic book character, and can be activated by students for exercises. Tom comments with audio sequences or speech bubbles, offers tips and suggests corrections. “Tutor Tom” is what is known as an education agent. In order to appeal to students, he wears trainers and “speaks like a student, not a lecturer,” emphasises Wiemeyer.

The professor's favourite instrument is the ARS – Audience Response System. The project is available in an EU-funded version called ARS-Nova. Lecturers can register there free of charge and ask questions. Students then log in during the lecture or course on their smartphones, tablets or notebooks and can answer questions, tick or write short texts in real time. The results are then assessed together. “Everyone has to answer. No one will be named for giving an incorrect answer. This gives me as a lecturer a very representative overview of my students' level of knowledge,” Wiemeyer enthuses about ARS. His students are just as keen on it, and ask for repeats.