Transforming the classroom experience with collaborative learning

Flavia Ibañez
Flavia Ibañez
April 24, 2021
Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

Located in New York City, an Ivy League university whose policy is to remain unnamed is committed to educating and developing leaders and builders of companies who create value for the society through its MBA, MS, Ph.D., and other programs.

As a result of the many disruptions caused by the pandemic, this long-established institution had to react quickly to continue to fulfill its mission. The alternatives were in-person and social-distanced classrooms with plastic protective barriers or a remote classroom that could be hybrid or fully online.

For a tenured professor of social entrepreneurship teaching undergraduates and MBA students at this institution, COVID-19 brought other unanticipated challenges to his classroom: dealing with people working in teams and keeping students engaged and motivated after moving his class online.

Noviggo, a Boston-based software startup focused on EdTech, helped him drive student engagement, transforming his lessons into an interactive program with their collaborative learning tool. This technology allows educators and students to collaborate through personalized teaching frameworks focused on learning through action.

Below, you will learn more about the Professor’s journey and the outcomes of this teaching approach.

A strategy for the new normal

A National Survey of Undergraduates During The Covid-19 Pandemic found that student satisfaction was dramatically lower after their colleges moved classes entirely online. The professor’s response was to quickly find tools and strategies that could remediate these and other common problems in online or hybrid courses.

Early in the pandemic before the fall semester, the professor began discussing with Noviggo several worries he had for the upcoming semester:

  • How could he offer the social aspect of team collaboration to his online classes?
  • Keep track of groups and individuals?
  • Make sure they can identify when to jump in and help?
  • Provide continuous feedback on their work?
  • How would the new situation affect his students’ grades?
  • How could he ensure that the solution works for multiple classes with different audiences?

The professor created and leveraged visual frameworks to teach his entrepreneurship class. He employs a project-based strategy, where undergraduate and MBA students would form teams, network, and collaborate around analyzing business models. However, COVID-19 entirely disrupted the usual social dynamics.

On the one hand, he could no longer share his knowledge and interact with students in a room, sitting in the same location. On the other hand, students lacked in-person interactions like casual discussions about their projects, presenting ideas, and getting feedback from peers.

Driving collaboration with an interactive learning environment

The professor needed a solution with enough flexibility to implement his vision in an easy-to-use and secure way. He was also looking for better visibility over the students’ work so he or his TAs could jump in whenever they required help.

Noviggo enables students to collaborate and engage with each other while learning about specific topics in bite-sized pieces, guided by prompting questions set up by the professor.

Using Noviggo, the professor and the TAs were able to:

  • Create an interactive version of their custom Business Model Canvas, customizing content and their prompts to guide the student’s thinking process.
  • Form and work in teams. One team member would create a canvas and invite the rest of them. Together, they would describe a business idea adding the components of the business into the app. They would then coordinate and assign the work, discuss ideas, and bring the professor in for questions.

"I think it certainly centralizes and encourages productive brainstorming and development of business concepts."
"We could easily divide up the work and share the ideas without having to chat on the side"
"We could all work at the same time and check in on each other's progress."

Surveyed students

Invoking the power of bite-sized learning

Noviggo’s platform is based on years of research into best practices of online/remote teaching. A research study from 2018 suggests that bite-sized pedagogy produces higher average scores and is also preferred by students. Noviggo recognizes smaller learning objectives make learning more easily consumed, increases knowledge retention, and reduces cognitive load.

This strategy seemed ideal for keeping students engaged and motivated; students would focus on one learning objective at a time and their own pace.

Using the platform, the professor was able to:

  • Create a bite-size learning journey with a step-by-step walkthrough to help fill in the framework. The professor would split the body of his lectures into smaller learning steps. Each step would have one learning objective supported by content and specific prompts.
  • Incorporate examples in the form of use cases, videos, and other media. The step-by-step guide allowed the professor to enhance the bite-size learning experience with additional content for further exploration, offering more learning opportunities.

It was such a great way to organize the information about our companies and really helped us focus on the aspects that mattered most.

Surveyed student

Understanding students’ behavior with real-time data analytics

Monitoring engagement levels during and between the class presents excellent opportunities for educators to adjust their instruction and enhance the learning experience. With a project-based approach using technology, Noviggo makes it possible to capture data that can help educators understand how students learn and work together with real-time insights leading to improvements that boost student engagement.

Using Noviggo, the professor was able to:

  • Understand team dynamics and engagement based on their progress and contributions.
  • Review the data analytics that showed that teams with higher levels of contributions report higher-confidence in their work. The groups added more details to their assumptions, delivered higher quality results.
  • Discover that undergraduate and MBA students demonstrated different engagement levels; contributions and participation were higher for undergraduate students. The reason: MBA students have more complex life circumstances than undergraduate students.

Example: Real-time progress dashboard

The “Last activity” dashboard is one of many ways to analyze a team’s progress. The professor would use it to ensure that everyone would be working in the same area when working on a topic during a lecture.

Implementing the new strategy without headaches

The goal of this professor is to create an engaging learning experience for students. Developing the syllabus and the lectures, the content, the dynamic, the activities, etc., are the critical areas of focus.

With Noviggo, the process of onboarding the professor and a class was quick and straightforward:

  • The professor and the Teacher’s Assistants had access to a sandbox to test the interactive lesson plan before the class.
  • Noviggo’s team onboarded 135 students from different time-zones in minutes by uploading the roster to the system.
  • Students logged in using the institution’s secure login systems. They would access an easy-to-use UI, supported by a guided tutorial and a help center.
  • The professor would work with and grade 27 team projects from two classes across the semester, tracking the project’s status and completion from start to end with no issues.


In our interview with the professor and his TA’s, we were able to identify the benefits of introducing Noviggo to their teaching:

  • The process of grading the projects became more straightforward and less time-consuming. Analyzing each project’s results became more comfortable with data analytics, creating the full picture of a team’s work and thinking process.
  • Based on testimonial evidence, the projects presented were of better quality, resulting in higher grades than previous semesters.
  • Students felt that Noviggo’s technology helped to improve their remote learning experience. At the end of the semester, the company surveyed students. The highlights were the easy-to-use UI, the ability to focus on what matters, and the collaboration between professors and students.

There is a lot more to learn. Our next step at Noviggo is to work with new professors interested in enhancing students’ learning at this university. 2020 was a year of radical change for everyone, especially for the education sector, with an urgency to reinvent the online learning experience to adapt to the new normal. At Noviggo, we are working to help educators and students with a platform for collaborating on visual frameworks that promotes critical and innovative thinking.

If you wish to discuss further, contact us at [email protected].

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