University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Carnegie Mellon University Higher Education Tech Innovation

Classroom Salon
Primary Contact Name: 
Nancy Kaplan & Ananda Gunawardena
Funding Framework: 
Primary Challenge Area: 
Blended Learning
Subjects: 
Biology, Chemistry, Writing
Focus: 
Peer Learning
Classroom Salon teachers

The Innovation: Classroom Salon (CLS)

Soliciting individual student input in large lecture courses can be tricky. There is simply not enough time to engage each student during the class period, making it difficult to gauge how well the class understands the material. Classroom Salon, a social networking platform developed at Carnegie Mellon University, gives each student a voice in the class discussion:

  • Instructors create a salon, add/invite members, and upload course materials.
  • Students annotate course documents and videos for joint analysis of text and graphics, commenting on specific words, sentences and paragraphs, and video frames.
  • Students ask questions about material in its context, answered by the instructor and other students.

An analytics tool aggregates all the annotations into “hotspots” in order to provide insights into student thinking. Instructors know which students are doing the work, where students are having trouble, and whether documents or videos are interesting or confusing and need further investigations.

Classroom Salon students
Students Discuss Classroom Salon
Classroom Salon presentation
Overview Presentation

The Grant Project: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) received an NGLC grant in April 2011.

NGLC funding enabled UWM to incorporate Classroom Salon (CLS) into a blended learning project that combined traditional classroom instruction, collaborative and community-based social networking, and individually tailored instruction, feedback, and assessment. During the project, UWM:

  • Recruited and trained faculty on CLS software and pedagogical strategies
  • Improved CLS interfaces, functions, and features
  • Piloted CLS in three introductory and gateway courses: Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, and Freshmen Composition

Results Achieved: Participating faculty felt CLS fostered student learning. Students’ annotations and questions about assigned readings provided insights in their comprehension; faculty could realign their lectures accordingly. SRI, the project evaluator, reported student outcomes, where the pilot resulted in an 85% course completion rate and 81% persistence rate to the next semester.

Read about the research-base for Classroom Salon.

Long-term Goal: To improve student motivation, engagement, and learning.

No formal post-grant CLS plans exist at UWM, but UWM faculty participants still use CLS in their classes and promote its use among UWM colleagues and the broader educational community. CMU continues to enhance the platform, and today CLS has over 20,000 users and 2,100+ salons in English, Biology, Chemistry, Political Science, Computer Science, Psychology, Mathematics, Physics, and Nursing Education at schools and institutions around the world.