Friday, October 24, 2014

OU-C professor infuses education with technology for improved student experience


Michael Lafreniere (left) is shown with student Scott Limle.

By public relations student writer Madison Corbin
Michael Lafreniere, associate professor of environmental engineering and mathematics at OU-C, is making an impact on students’ learning experiences by taking advantage of technology and getting creative with his classroom structure. His development and implementation of strategic and experimental teaching models on campus also supports the betterment of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) offerings on campus. 

Lafreniere’s motivations fit well with some of OU-Cs most prominent values, as he continuously contributes to the cultivation of community learning on campus.

Lafreniere is sharing his advanced teaching techniques with not only students, but also his peers. He has been invited to speak on a wide range of college campuses including Arizona State University, Northwest Florida State College as well as Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. He has also shared insights about the growing use of technology in academia through National Webinars, which produce web-based training events for professionals.

“The classroom structure I use is called the ‘Collaboratory,’” said Lafreniere, clarifying that the goal of his method is “to help students engage and focus on active learning in the classroom.”

Lafreniere provides lecture-like content to his students through videos posted on YouTube, allowing them flexibility to access and study the material at home.  By tracking his students’ patterns of viewing the videos, he can more accurately assess areas of concern.  In class, students work collaboratively to solve problems using tools such as a team-driven note-taking software called DyKnow and online assessment software called Enhanced WebAssign.

Lafreniere’s thoughtfully developed strategy equips students with comprehensive coverage of material, aiming to better their long-term retention and improve their ability to apply math skills widely and frequently throughout their lives.

“Students capture the highly symbolic nature of mathematics with digital ink from the instructor, fellow students, and their own writings, all of which can be played back like a recording for reflection and deepening of conceptual understanding,” Lafreniere said.

Lafreniere’s students readily express their satisfaction with his practices.

“He has helped a phenomenal amount,” says environmental engineering student James Alley.  “He has a great concern for student success in terms of both education and our futures.”

Because of this course-structure’s flexible nature, Lafreniere takes time to remain available and responsive to his students beyond classroom hours.  His ability to communicate quick tips and direct students to online items has resulted in a growing database of additional resources for classes to come.

Lafreniere’s ultimate goal is “to address the large number of students needing help completing developmental mathematics and to navigate their pathway to higher education STEM opportunities.”

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