online platform

Psychology professors James Pennebaker (left) and Samuel Gosling deliver a video lecture for an online psychology course. Students who took the online course were found to perform better on tests than past students who were taught using a conventional approach.

Photo Credit: Marsha Miller | Daily Texan Staff

Psychology professors Samuel Gosling and James Pennebaker have found that students perform better in an online classroom with daily “benchmark” quizzes rather than a traditional classroom with monumental midterms.   

UT has transitioned some courses to an online platform, developed by the two professors, named Texas Online World of Educational Research, in which students can participate online through broadcasted lectures that are formatted much like a television show. This is their third semester teaching with the new method.

“We started daily testing people, and we thought maybe it improves performance, and we found that it does improve performance in students, especially in students with low socioeconomic backgrounds,” Gosling said. “The idea is that if they bring their laptops in, we can give them personalized feedback based on their responses … to integrate many of those things that work well in an intimate class and try to scale those up for the big classes.”

After using the new program, the professors compared the students’ performances to years past and saw a few major differences, Pennebaker said.

“First, students did better on the tests than in previous years when we used a conventional teaching approach,” Pennebaker said. “Second, our students made high grades in their other courses both that same semester and the semester afterwards. Third, our new method reduced the traditional achievement gap between those from upper middle and lower middle class students.”

Portuguese sophomore Helena Delimaverde said she adapted quickly to the unconventional course structure. 

“I feel like this class really gives the chance for students get involved in class,” Delimaverde said. ”We have chats during class with other students, so you are able to discuss problems with other students.”

Students have a benchmark in each class that covers the previous class. These assessments make up 88 percent of the total grade.

Currently, Pennebaker’s and Gosling’s psychology class and a government class are the only two courses using this online platform, but Gosling said the University has been supportive of the idea and helping to implement it.

“It’s not exaggeration to say that thanks to the University’s support of what we’ve done that The University of Texas is at the very forefront of this,” Gosling said.

Eight-year old Tobin Wine and his brother Griffin Wine, 6, are C.E.O and C.F.O collectively of new local gaming company Games Save the World. The two used the fundraising website Kickstarter to raise more than four thousand dollars for the development of their new card game Monster Crabs.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

Kickstarter is an online platform for raising funds through crowdfunding, a process in which individuals come together to financially support projects or organizations. It has recently gained popularity with independent businesses for its easy accessibility for newcomers and incentives for supporters. Here is a spotlight on a few local Austin businesses that recently used Kickstarter to successfully raise funds:

Hard-Packed Vegan Ice Cream

For Amelia Raley, funding through Kickstarter is familiar territory. While she’s currently funding a project to expand her Hyde Park vegan ice cream parlor, Sweet Ritual, she also used Kickstarter to fund its initial opening back in 2011.

“We had a really fun time with the funding. We got a lot of positive responses from people from all over the USA who were excited about our ice cream,” said Raley. “We offered generous backer rewards and made a lot of new customers and friends, including a couple who pledged to the level of ‘Free Ice Cream for a Year.’ It’s always nice to see them!”

Kickstarter implements rewards for various levels of “pledging,” or donating specific amounts of money. For example, Sweet Ritual’s pledge rewards range from $10 for a free ice cream cone to $1,000 for free ice cream for a year.

Games Save the World

Kickstarter isn’t exclusive to pre-existing businesses — or even adults, for that matter. For eight-year-old Tobin Wine and his “Monster Crabs” card game, Kickstarter has been both a successful method of funding and a learning tool. Alongside his younger brother, Griffin, Tobin has turned what started out as a venture to raise money outside of chores into a full-on project with the help of his father and neighbors.

“They are doing a lot of the work, but more importantly, we’re all learning what it takes to run a full business rather than just a lemonade stand,” Aaron Wine, the boys’ father, said. Slated for release in November, Monster Crabs, a game that “combines war with rock, paper, scissors,” will use its funding to pay for the cards’ illustrator, printing costs, shipping supplies and reimbursements for legal fees.

“Our neighborhood is very tight-knit and has a great forum to contact each other where we were able to get the word out initially,” Wine said. “[With Kickstarter], we have customers in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Australia, and keeping everyone informed on our progress is easy.”

Snorin’ Dogs: Austin’s First Sonoran Food Trailer

With more than 18 years of combined experience in the food industry and prior Kickstarter experience, implementing the website once again for their food trailer was a natural choice for Eric Neier and Michael Brinley, co-founders of Snorin’ Dog, a Sonoran-style food cart that features Sonoran hot dogs. Sonoran hot dogs, which are wrapped in smoked bacon inside of a Mexican bolillo hot dog bun, have yet to see much popularity in Austin, but Snorin’ Dogs hopes to change that with the introduction of its food cart.

“Everyone in Austin knows that food carts are popping up everywhere and have become serious players in the food game,” Brinley said. “Being from Tucson, Eric and I didn’t think twice. If we’re going to open a food cart, it’s going to be Sonoran hot dogs.”

“This city is just brimming with young, talented, creative people that have a very entrepreneurial spirit,” Neier said. “Small business is something that makes our city so great. It’s a community that supports itself and has the numbers to do so. That’s a beautiful thing.”

Sugar Circus

Meghan Krasnoff and Belinda Espinoza used Kickstarter to open up Sugar Circus, the merging of Krasnoff’s Sugar Tooth Bakery and Espinoza’s SugarPOP Sweet Shop. While the two admit that the process of asking others to help contribute money to their dream was initially a challenging experience, especially since food is one of the lowest-netting categories on the site, they were astounded by the amount of support they received in acquiring their funding goal.

For anyone new to the concept of online crowdfunding, Krasnoff and Belinda recommended personalizing the experience by letting your supporters get to know you and never missing an opportunity to talk about your project to anyone who will listen.

“You never know how far it’ll get or who will surprise you with their support,” said Krasnoff. “Have fun, and don’t take it so seriously. Even if you don’t make it, you’ll find a way to make your dream happen if it’s what you really want.”