How to innovate and inspire during a global pandemic

Kira Talent was built to help admissions teams go beyond the application by giving them a holistic view of every applicant through timed video and timed written assessments. When senior lecturer Charlie Wheelan discovered our software in 2016, he wondered if he could tweak it to suit his needs.

Background

On a mission to break down barriers and address social challenges

Wheelan is a Dartmouth College alum, senior lecturer, and policy fellow at The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at the Ivy League school. The center provides an interdisciplinary perspective on policy-related topics and drives public policy research, teaching, deliberation, and informed public debate. Wheelan’s background and experience teaching across five different departments all connected to public policy made him a natural fit for the position.

When he isn’t teaching public policy and economics, he’s giving TED Talks, appearing as a guest on various podcasts, or writing columns and authoring best-selling books.

Challenge

Transforming the pencil and paper quiz

Kira Talent was built to help admissions teams go beyond the application by giving them a holistic view of every applicant through timed video and timed written assessments. When Wheelan discovered Kira Talent in 2016, he wondered if he could tweak it to suit his needs.

After working with our team to set up online quizzes for his course, he quickly fell in love with the new format. Little did he know, in 2020, he’d be looking to re-introduce online assessments.

As Dartmouth’s winter term was wrapping up, the coronavirus escalated from an outbreak overseas to a global pandemic. Wheelan’s last class was on March 6th and it was right around that time he was told spring term would be transitioning to an online format.
He was about to begin teaching a reading-intensive education policy class that examines how to design a public system that ensures the best teachers are in the classroom teaching what students ought to be learning.

The class was designed to be discussion-oriented, which he now had two weeks to retrofit for online learning. Wheelan knew that these discussions about policy would incite thoughtful dialogue with many different perspectives – he would need a format that would be both interesting and interactive for his students in order to facilitate these conversations.

He also needed a way to quiz students prior to the start of each class. To take part in the discussion, the students need to have done the assigned reading in advance of the class. Ordinarily, when students were still on campus, Wheelan would have used a quick 5-minute pencil and paper quiz to separate those who had done the reading from those who hadn’t.

He was left without a tool that would meet both of these needs. “My first instinct was, it can’t be done,” Wheelan told us.

"Kira accomplishes everything I need in terms of making sure that they do the reading. But on top of that, instead of the one-sentence answer that I can just check off, I’m eliciting from each student a much more thoughtful and engaging reaction to the questions that I’m asking.”

- Charlie Wheelan, Senior lecturer and policy fellow, Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Tuck School of Business

Solution

An unconventional approach to online assessment

Just as he was wondering how in the world he was going to make the process feel more human, he remembered how much he liked the Kira Talent video quizzes in 2016. He realized short, timed videos would solve both problems at once; he’d be able to ask interesting questions and to capture answers from his students that are more engaging, more spontaneous, and more human than he could ever get from a paper and pencil exercise.

“Kira accomplishes everything I need in terms of making sure that they do the reading. But on top of that, instead of the one-sentence answer that I can just check off, I’m eliciting from each student a much more thoughtful reaction to the questions that I’m asking,” he said.

It became very clear that this was going to be a very powerful tool to facilitate a greater personal connection between him and his students.

Wheelan didn’t just introduce a different format for quizzes, he embraced the new medium and took it to another level with whimsical anecdotes and special guests to keep his students engaged.

Some students’ family members even got involved; one eager-to-participate student’s mom completed the reading assignment and answered quiz questions, while another curious dad wandered into the frame, casually eating a sandwich, to watch his daughter complete her assessment.

Results

A more thoughtful and meaningful way to quiz and connect with students

The opportunity to connect with students remotely has provided Wheelan a unique window into their lives he wouldn’t otherwise be granted.

“Kira has helped connect me to the students, it’s created a sense of fun, and it’s taken us deeper in terms of how we’ve discussed the material than traditional tools I would have used,” he said.

No one knows when things will return to some semblance of normal, but when they do, Wheelan assures us he has no doubt he’ll be keeping Kira Talent in his testing tool belt.

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