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Engaging students using the interactive elements of Nearpod — featuring Lane Gillespie


John Dewey once said, “Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results.” This is something Boise State University faculty Lane Gillespie has discovered as well. As a new faculty member in 2013, Gillespie began teaching in a more traditional format with PowerPoints, lectures and some applied activities. It quickly became clear to her that there needed to be more application and engagement to enhance students’ learning experiences — and to make teaching fun, too! Gillespie began searching for better ways to teach her students, which brought her to online course development projects with eCampus and workshops with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). Through these activities, Gillespie was introduced to new technologies and instructional approaches which helped her transition from lecture-centered, passive learning approaches to student-centered, active learning approaches. As she delved deeper into her search to improve her courses, one technology in particular “clicked” for Gillespie — Nearpod!

Photo of instructor Lane Gillespie
Lane Gillespie

Enhancing student engagement with Nearpod

Gillespie explains that she loves Nearpod because it makes lessons interactive, which helps increase her students’ engagement and improves their learning. Nearpod mixes informational slides with integrated activities, including the ability to add media, into a lesson. This functionality was aligned with the best practices for active learning that Gillespie was learning about from eCampus and the CTL. Gillespie has appreciated that Nearpod lessons can be easily adapted to be used in an instructor-driven synchronous learning environment or a more student-driven asynchronous learning environment. This functionality helped Gillespie use the same content for both her face-to-face classes and online courses. Another functionality about Nearpod that Gillespie has enjoyed is how easy it is for instructors to make changes to content and link the content to learning activities.

How Gillespie uses Nearpod in asynchronous courses

Gillespie appreciates the utility and range of options for lessons. In her asynchronous online courses, Gillespie has used Nearpod lessons to emphasize important concepts from the readings by providing summaries of the key concepts from the reading materials as well as introduce or extend those concepts through other mediums (video, websites, online resources). Student can also check their own knowledge in a way that is low-stakes through short answer responses, pictorial representation and matching and fill-in-the-blank quizzes. These activities serve as practice (e.g., matching) and as a platform to engage in critical thinking (e.g., short answer response).These also provide students opportunities to pose questions about the materials. 

In her Victimology and Victimization class, for example, there is a lesson that includes a couple of short video clips about college students’ experiences with crime victimization followed by an open-ended question slide where students are prompted to provide suggestions for crime prevention and intervention options on campus. Students generate great ideas that are de-identified and shared with the class so they can see their suggestions in conjunction with the suggestions of classmates.

Why students and faculty love Nearpod

According to Gillespie, students appreciate the interactive element of Nearpod. Students have commented that the Nearpod lessons are helpful in understanding concepts and facilitating their engagement with the content. For example, one student explained, “I really enjoyed the use of Nearpod/interactive PowerPoint. I think it is important to have interaction with the course material, instead of pure lectures. It was helpful to foster engagement and interest in the concepts we learned.”

“The Nearpods were the best thing because they made me engage and watch videos instead of fast–forwarding it.”

From a teaching perspective, Gillespie says there are several things that make Nearpod a powerful teaching aid. It allows students to receive information in multiple modes, like traditional word content slides, videos and interacting with outside materials via the web. It also prompts them to interact with the material in real time through activities and challenges them to think critically about it. Gillespie can then create summaries of student responses and pull those as examples to share with the class at the close of a module. This way students can see each other’s anonymized contributions in addition to their own. Moreover, Gillespie points out that students feel more comfortable asking questions or trying to answer something they may not be sure about without being put on the spot and without high-risk to their grades.

The low-stakes environment for self-assessment is a particularly useful aspect of Nearpod activities. Students have to answer the questions and complete the activities, but they don’t have to get the right answers on these formative activities. As long as they do the work on time, they earn full marks for this portion of their grade. This in turn provides opportunities for early intervention by the instructor. Nearpod-generated reports of student work on lessons can be viewed by activity or by student, which allows for easy assessment of individual student work as well as across students in the course. If someone appears to be misunderstanding a concept, Gillespie can give them individualized feedback as notes in the Canvas grade center or reach out to them directly.


Gillespie and her students have found Nearpod to be so useful that she now uses it in almost all of her classes, both online and in-person. She encourages other faculty to give Nearpod a try for all the benefits it offers. Nearpod is free for students to use and offers an entry level, free “Silver” account version for faculty. After using the Silver version for some time, Gillespie found Nearpod to be so useful for her teaching that she opted to purchase an annual subscription for the “Gold” account. This provided her with significantly more storage than the free version, as well as access to the Google Slides add-on. Moreover, sessions can have up to 75 students, rather than 40 with the Silver version — which is more than enough for her class sizes. Gillespie suggests that other faculty start trying Nearpod with just one lesson in their course and then adjust how they use it until they have it working just right. They can then add it to other modules in their course and even other courses they are teaching.


If you’d like to learn more about how to design your online course to include interactive learning technologies, request a consultation with an eCampus staff member. View the following additional resources to get started trying Nearpod in your online course.

Article Credit

Thanks to Lane Gillespie, and Corinna Provant-Robishaw , the eCampus instructional design consultant team manager who worked with Gillespie on the Victimization and Victimology course.