Prompted to rethink the education space, we wanted to connect students and teachers together during large lectures. Litmus won 1st in Georgia Tech’s Convergence Innovation Competition, a bi-annual contest to promote critical thinking in mobile app development. The project has since become the CIC’s unofficial poster child.
Fall 2014 I was a Teaching Assistant, and felt many of my students were uncomfortable stopping large lectures even though inquiries could benefit many classmates. I asked my supervising professor and she too found it hard to know whether the class really grasped the material during lectures. Her tactic: scanning the crowd for confused faces. Getting real-time feedback in large seminars, it seemed, is a nebulous art no one had perfected.
Some Georgia Tech classes use clickers for in-class feedback. Teachers post questions during lecture and students click away their multiple choice answers. My professor states, “Clickers are burdensome.” Not only do they have clunky interfaces, but they require preparation time and conflict with her impromptu style. What’s more students had to buy these pricey devices used only in a few classes.
We decided to prototype an iOS app. I handled the interface and database design. My partner handled front end.
Our initial concept suffered from feature bloat. We realized an educational tool needed to complement the in-class learning, not distract from it. We simplified the interface into a slider and information visualization.
Prototype Student View:
Prototype Teacher View:
Inspired by iOS 7′s design language, the final app dons outlined icons, thin typefaces, simple gradients, and a vibrant color scheme.
As students ourselves, we wanted to respond to feeling vulnerable, frustrated, and confused during lectures. Litmus was not intended to digitize the interaction between teacher and students but to mediate a more democratic classroom dynamic. We want students to realize that they aren’t the only ones lost and that asking for clarifications results in a more rewarding classroom experience for everyone. Teachers after all have as much room to grow as students.
Litmus can serve in other context as well. We have received interest from industry representatives who excitedly identified other applications: gauging seminar presentations, estimating political candidates’ popularity, engaging Massive Open Online Courses. Thanks to Litmus’s simplicity, the platform offers flexible possibilities.