Seven Principles at WPI: Technology as a Lever

Filed in In the Classroom, Tips for Teaching with Technology by on February 9, 2012

Several years ago – dare I say it – before blogging took off, I wrote a short piece for our TTL team e-newsletter on applying the “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (Chickering and Gamson, 1987) based on the follow-up “Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as a Lever” (Chickering and Erhmann, 1996).   Since it’s been a few years, and WPI has adopted/changed many of our instructional technology tools, I thought it was time for an update!

Principle One:  Good Practice Encourages Contacts Between Students and Faculty

Chickering and Gamson wrote that “frequent student-faculty contact in and out of classes is the most important factor in student motivation and involvement” (1987). There are many synchronous and asynchronous communication tools available to increase the level of contact and connection between a student and a professor. These tools can also provide alternative ways for students with diverse learning styles to approach an instructor with a question or comment regarding the course. 

For ideas and tips for tools available to faculty at WPI that can be used to increase contact with students, consider the following:

  • Communicate with your Students using myWPI (Version 9.1 users, click on the “Communication” button)
  • Consider holding virtual Office Hours using Wimba Classroom
  • Did you receive a particularly challenging inquiry from a student via email?  Could P-Cap be a solution for recording a screen capture video response/explanation for the student?

Principle Two:  Good Practice Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation Among Students

Chickering and Gamson wrote, “Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort that a solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working with others often increases involvement in learning. Sharing one’s own ideas and responding to others’ reactions sharpens thinking and deepens understanding.” (1987). Group work is shown in research studies to improve student understanding of the content while also encouraging students to be active learners. There are many tools available at WPI that enable peer learning and reflection:

Principle Three:  Good Practice Uses Active Learning Techniques

Chickering and Ehrmann wrote, “Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers” (1996). Active learning, as indicated by the name, is where students are actively engaged in the learning process. The lab component to most WPI courses and the project-based learning experience are just two examples of active learning at WPI. There are also many tools and simulations available at WPI that encourage active learning techniques:

Principle Four:  Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback

Chickering and Ehrmann wrote: “Students need help in assessing their existing knowledge and competence. Then, in classes, students need frequent opportunities to perform and receive feedback on their performance. Students need chances to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know, and how they might assess themselves.” (1996). There are many ways in which technology can be used to give feedback to students in and out of the classroom.  Consider the following: 

Principle Five:  Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task

Chickering and Ehrmann wrote: “Time plus energy equals learning. Learning to use one’s time well is critical for students and professionals alike. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective learning for students and effective teaching for faculty” (1996). There are many ways by which technology can be used to improve time on task for both students and faculty in and out of the classroom:

  • Set up due dates using assessment tools in myWPI
    Tip: Incorporate interim due dates for larger projects, which encourage students to manage their completion of the project, rather than scrambling to meet a deadline!
  • Track student progress with the Review Status tool.
  • The Assignment Manager allows course instructors and TAs to batch download submitted assignments and is integrated with the grade center tool.
  • Posting class notes either before or after a lecture encourages students to pay more attention to what is being lectured rather than copying what is being displayed on the projector or whiteboard. 
    Tip:  Consider using Lecture Capturing to capture your lectures and make them available for student review after class is over!  WPI faculty who have used the technology have said that they have seen no impact on their classroom attendance when using the tool!

Principle Six:  Good Practice Communicates High Expectations

Chickering and Ehrmann wrote: “Expect more and you will get it. High expectations are important for everyone — for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and well motivated. Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy” (1996). WPI faculty can take advantage of a few myWPI tools to not only communicate their high expectations to their students, but to also motivate their students to achieve.

  • Use myWPI to publish exemplary student work. Knowing that their hard work will be published to the rest of their classmates drives students to want to achieve higher standards.
  • Use myWPI to provide examples of past student projects. Having examples of past projects available with suggestions as to why these projects did or did not meet your expectations will help students in preparing their own projects.
  • Create Rubrics in myWPI-Blackboard 9.1 from Control Panel > Course Tools > Rubrics.  Rubrics created in myWPI can be associated with a Grade Center column and viewed in the Grade Center as well.  They help communicate high standards to students prior to the assignment or project’s due date.

Principle Seven:  Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

Chickering and Ehrmann wrote: “Different students bring different talents and styles to college. Brilliant students in a seminar might be all thumbs in a lab or studio; students rich in hands-on experience may not do so well with theory. Students need opportunities to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them. Then they can be pushed to learn in new ways that do not come so easily” (1996). WPI faculty can take advantage of many technology resources available to them to help meet the needs of the diverse learners and student personalities in their classrooms:

  • Incorporate graphics, audio, video and web resources into your lectures to help convey content. This appeals to the kinesthetic and visual learners.
  • Consider using Lecture Capturing and posting your lecture notes to help those students who learn best by reading and listening.  It also provides an effective way for students to review what they learned when preparing to complete assignments or while studying for exams.
  • Encourage asynchronous class discussion using the Discussion Board tool in myWPI.  This allows for introverted or reflective students to process the information on their own prior to participating.
  • Use clickers to allow students to provide you with anonymous feedback on their generaul understanding of the material.
  • Promote peer instruction and student collaboration.  Students can learn a lot from each other in group work!


Chickering, A.W. & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education,” AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), pp. 3-7.

Chickering, A.W. & Ehrmann, S.C. (1996). “Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever,” AAHE Bulletin, 49(1-10), pp. 3-6.

McCabe, D.B. & Meuter M.L. (2011).  “A Student View of Technology in the Classroom: Does it Enhance the Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education?” Journal of Marketing Education, 33(149). pp. 149-159.

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