In hopes of increasing first- and second-year retention rates, the University has started a new program to better initiate student engagement.

IMPACT, Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation, is a program that works to redesign key foundational courses to create more interaction between the instructors and the students.

In classes such as Psychology 120, there is little to no interaction between the lecturer and the students, said George Hollich, associate professor of psychological sciences.

Hollich said the lack of engagement is due to the large size of the class. Foundational, core requirement courses such as PSY 120 are large lectures that have up to 500 students.

Math lecturer Tim Delworth agrees and added that now that there is more technology available, students are able to do work on their own electronically instead of having to attend large lectures.

“For years the only way to get material out was for the students to come to lecture – we dispense the knowledge and they leave,” he said. “Our time can be better spent working with the students on a little more interesting activities and get a little deeper into the material.”

To facilitate more interaction between students and the instructor, IMPACT has completely reformatted PSY 120 and nine other courses.

The idea is instead of going to lecture three times a week, students can listen to the lecture online for two hours a week on their own time. Students in an IMPACT-format class attend class once a week in Hicks Undergraduate Library’s learning studio, Room B848, to do class activities.

Kendra Yerrington, a freshman in the College of Health and Human Sciences, said she enjoys the IMPACT format of PSY 120 because of the freedom it grants her.

“It’s different because you do most of your work on your own,” she said. “But I like being able to choose when to watch the lectures.”

Dale Whittaker, vice provost of undergraduate academic affairs, said the purpose of this program is to build a strong bond between the University and first- and second-year students.

“We know that engagement enhances retention because more students feels engaged with their friends, subject matter and faculty,” he said. “This kind of teaching increases engagement so it increases confidence and competency.”

The special classroom was designed to do just that: Increase engagement. The room is composed of circular tables with white boards in the middle so students can jot down ideas to share with their classmates. The classes consist of 20-80 students – quite a bit fewer than a lecture of 500.

Hollich said the students sit at assigned tables so they interact among themselves. After each exam, the students are then assigned to another table to meet new classmates.

Yerrington said the format of the class allows her to interact with instructors and peers more than she does in any other class.

“I can just call a TA over and they can help me individually,” she said, “and that is something I couldn’t do in a large lecture hall.”