Michael Miller is an Instructional Designer and Academic Success & Retention Specialist on the Learning Initiatives Team at EdPlus.
What is InScribe?
InScribe is a new digital tool in ASU’s suite that empowers students to engage with each other beyond discussion boards, peer review, or group assignments. That may seem like a simple idea, but think about it: When was the last time – in a fully-online course – that students interacted with each other in any space that didn’t impact their grade? It’s shockingly rare.
Sure, there are other discussion resources available, but they often sort conversations in a linear, threaded fashion that can become unmanageable to navigate for larger-enrollment courses. In contrast, InScribe uses powerful filters and customized notifications allowing students to stay connected to the topics, posts, and resources they care most about.
“So,” I hear you asking, “what exactly is InScribe?” InScribe “leverages the power of community + artificial intelligence to connect individuals to the answers, resources, and people they need to succeed” (InScribe, n.d.).
- InScribe is a digital tool available to ASU faculty and staff through Canvas LTI
- InScribe empowers students to ask questions, share answers, and post resources in a grade-free environment
- InScribe is a digital resource repository to supplement learning materials
- InScribe is a peer-to-peer support mechanism that empowers anytime-anywhere access for students
What Makes InScribe so Powerful?
Any discussion forum can host peer-to-peer conversation, so what makes InScribe stand out?
InScribe utilizes an AI program called ROSI to help students get the answers they need when they need it and to help instructors facilitate classroom conversation.
Answers on Demand: As a student begins typing their question, ROSI will offer suggestions based on pre-populated instructional resources or other students’ posts that contain similar words. Often, students may find the answer to their question before they even ask it!
Moderator Assist: For InScribe moderators, ROSI can notify you if a student’s post contains a “negative, frustrated, or confused” sentiment, a word on a list of commonly flagged words, and even a word on a list that instructors can customize. This helps moderators quickly identify potentially disruptive posts and prioritize posts from students that may need additional support.
Addresses Common Student Pain Points
Digital-immersion students attending entirely online have a lot of unique considerations, but chief among those is often a scarcity of free time. With many online students balancing work and/or family priorities among others, the need for a quick response to their questions becomes imperative as they may have a limited window of time in which to work on their school assignments.
With 24/7 access to course materials, students often assume they’ll have 24/7 access to their instructor and can feel frustrated when they can’t progress on an assignment as they anticipated (Boyd, 2008). With the ability to search other student questions, browse resources and conversations by instructor-curated topics, and receive auto-generated suggestions to their questions, students can feel connected to their class at the time and place it is most convenient for them.
Since InScribe allows students to search conversations, review other students’ questions and the answers they received, as well as answer other students’ questions, InScribe offers a level of engagement for every type of learner. This “comfortable engagement” helps increase learners’ sense of belonging in their class which can increase retention rates (Murphy et al., 2020) while also building connections between learners, instructors, and the classroom content to help build a strong community of inquiry (Garrison et al., 2000). Let’s look at a few categories of online learners and how they benefit from InScribe.
- Activator, engaged: This is the student who is constantly scrolling through InScribe to look for new opportunities to engage. They feel a sense of belonging by seeing how their peers are doing in the course and will often jump in to answer their classmates’ questions or share helpful resources they’ve found.
- Activator, transactional: This is the student who isn’t hesitant to post a question but only reviews posts when they are seeking information. They’re likely balancing school with other competing priorities, so efficiency is key. They are grateful to have access to immediate answers from their classmates and to potentially find an answer to their question in another classmate’s post.
- Observer, engaged: Although they may not feel comfortable posting their own question in a public forum with many other students, they are eager to review the posts by their classmates and the resources that expand on class topics. They benefit from the comfortable anonymity InScribe offers while also feeling a greater sense of connection to the classroom learning experience by listening to and reflecting on others’ experiences, questions, and resources.
- Observer, transactional: This student comes to InScribe when they get stuck on an assignment because they may not feel comfortable asking a question or may not even know what to ask. They appreciate the efficiency of searching through questions their classmates have asked and will typically only post or reach out for help if they feel like they have to.
- Prioritizer, engaged: This is the student who is taking a full-time course load, working two part-time jobs, and raising a family of three . . . and thriving! Although they would love the time in their schedule to leisurely scroll through InScribe, they have downloaded the mobile app and check notifications throughout the day during breaks at work to maximize their efficiency.
- Prioritizer, transactional: This is the student who lives by the motto, “Cs get degrees,” and has accepted that getting straight As is not at the top of their priority list compared to their many personal, professional, and civic goals. This degree is to help them take a strategic step in their life, so they appreciate the efficiency of InScribe’s AI to suggest pre-populated resources or similar questions they can review when they come up against a roadblock in their studies.
For each of these students, InScribe serves an important role in the connection between instructor, students, and learning.
Is That All?
No! There’s more! Several units around ASU are exploring innovative ways to implement InScribe:
- Combining multiple sections of the same course into one InScribe community so all students can benefit from the knowledge-sharing
- Combining digital-immersion students with campus-immersion students in the same InScribe community
- Providing onboarding support for new students as they prepare for their first courses
- Creating 24/7, 360° support for students outside of the classroom through tutoring, advising, and student community services
- Hosting faculty and staff community of practice through InScribe.
In fact, speaking of a community of practice, we invite ASU faculty who are currently using InScribe or who are interested in learning more about innovative ways to bring InScribe’s inclusive community into your classroom to join our ASU InScribe Community of Practice. More details to come.
Before You Go
One final word to all of you who are now hungry to explore InScribe’s capabilities for your classroom: be clear about the pedagogical intent. With all that it can do, InScribe is likely not a good pedagogical space for hosting graded assignments or discussions since it does not include grading functions. Instructors should also keep in mind that, since InScribe is most often not a graded component of a course, some students may never engage with the resource, so it may be best to avoid posting any course-critical information in that space.
However, for those instructors who are looking for a digital tool that can help students build their instructor-learner, learner-learner, and learner-learning material connections through information gathering and sharing, InScribe could be a great option. For every type of learner we serve, InScribe creates a comfortable space to engage in community-powered pedagogy that increases their sense of belonging and access to information.
Boyd, P. W. (2008). Analyzing students’ perceptions of their learning in online and hybrid first-year composition courses. Computers and Composition, 25, 224-243. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compcom.2008.01.002
College Innovation Network. (2022, February). Building belonging with InScribe at Rio Salado College. CIN Evaluation and Impact Report. https://wgulabs.org/cin-evaluation-impact-report-rio-salado-inscribe-february-2022/
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W., (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1096-7516(00)00016-6
InScribe. (n.d.). Home. InScribe. https://www.inscribeapp.com/ Murphy, M. C., Gopalan, M., Carter, E. R., Emerson, K. T., Bottoms, B. L., & Walton, G. M. (2020). A customized belonging intervention improves retention of socially disadvantaged students at a broad-access university. Science Advances, 6(29), np. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aba4677