Revisiting the One-Minute Paper in the Digital Age

In a classroom setting consisting of students from diverse cultural backgrounds it can often be difficult to determine what they are actually learning and there is limited opportunity to engage with individual students. It can also be a challenge to get students to speak up when they have been asked questions. This can be challenging enough for experienced staff, but those who are relatively new to teaching may also find this especially difficult, as they must wait until formal course feedback to see how they are performing as teachers.

Consequently, a number of lecturers in our Management department at the Adam Smith Business School within the University of Glasgow have started using the One Minute Paper (OMP) in classes to increase participation and get a better gauge on students’ understanding of key concepts. Some of the most surprising issues have been raised via the OMP – issues that we thought we had made clear but were still confusing for some students. Therefore, we believe that the OMP technique should be utilised more frequently, especially in large multinational classes.

The OMP is a paper-based feedback tool that generally consists of three questions, such as: What was the most significant thing you learned during the session? What question remains uppermost in your mind? Is there anything you did not understand? The questions are usually tailored by the lecturer to suit the needs of the class, so the format is not set in stone. To date, the traditional format has held appeal to lecturers because it is technology-free and relies on little preparation.

However, teaching practices have evolved in recent decades due to technological changes such as students using laptops and mobile devices in class instead of the notebook and pen, and teachers shifting from using overhead projectors with acetates to the widespread adoption of PowerPoint (or Prezi for the more technologically adventurous). There lies a similar opportunity to modernise the format of traditional learning tools, such as the OMP, to reflect the evolving learning environment.

In our workshop at the Chartered ABS’ Learning Teaching and Student Experience (LTSE) conference in Bristol last year, we described our attempt at experimenting with different formats of the OMP. We have utilised the traditional paper-based OMP in multiple variations (ad-hoc ripping a paper out of a student’s notebook, post-it notes, questionnaires which have incorporated emoticons, etc), and an in-house classroom response system (called YACRS – Yet Another Classroom Response System), aiming to assess whether we could transfer the traditional paper tool into a digital format.

A comment we received from a participant in a workshop at the LTSE conference was that a Digital OMP (DOMP) utilising current classroom response technology was not in fact a OMP at all due to the constraints of asking multiple choice questions which direct students’ responses to certain things we think they might not have understood. We recognised that this was the crux of the problem. Asking students open-ended questions allows them to provide any response they wish, which our classroom response system is unable to manage as it cannot handle substantial text input. This means we essentially have to use multiple choice questions to pin-point what we believe the students might have struggled with. A significant advantage in using a system like YACRS is that it removes the time-consuming process of analysing paper-based answers, which can mean that we are unable to address students’ concerns until the next class the following week. Instead we receive instant answers and are able to address any issues raised from student feedback promptly.

What we really want to do is enable a truly digital experience of the OMP to be utilised in modern classrooms. A true DOMP needs to allow large text input and include an analytical component that can quickly identify key themes from the inputs. This is needed in order to effectively implement a DOMP in modern classrooms, ensuring a balance between student needs and workload pressures.

This year we will again be at the LTSE conference, on our home ground in Glasgow, where we intend to share the developments we have sought for our classroom response system in partnership with Computing Science students at our University. We believe that use of a truly Digital One-Minute Paper can have many positive benefits for students and teachers and can help transform the modern classroom.


Authors: Paul Ferri, Alison Gibb, Paula S. Karlsson, Peter Keenan - Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow