(Part of an ongoing series featuring Rich Media Impact Award finalists)

It’s such a small request, really. Bob van den Brand simply wants students to pay more attention in class.

But that detail is a spoke on a much larger wheel. Engaged students get better grades and increase the pass rate. A better pass rate results in a decreased number of students who drop out in the first few years.  High-achieving students should save time for the professor. Before you know it everyone is rolling along with their happy, well-educated, plenty-of-free-time selves.

But wait. Before you lose yourself in that higher-education utopia, we need to go back to the ‘pay more attention in class’ place where it all begins.  How do you capture the attention of, as Bob calls it, the YouTube Generation?

Bob is an adjunct associated professor at the Tilburg School of Economics and Management. He launched the I-STAR Learning Project, which he says improves the performances of both student and lecturers. It’s run with Mediasite as the core technology.

“We would like to connect with a new generation of students. Lectures should be time-and-place independent, have alternative learning routes and be available online,” he said.

I-STAR stands for Experience, Snippets-practice, Try and test, Ask questions and Results. It starts with studio-recorded lecture blocks, no more than 10 minutes long and designed to quickly dive into the learning material. The next set of short lecture blocks cover case studies and self-guided student exercises. Then the students get bonus points for taking practice tests through Blackboard, and are immediately able to check their answers through yet another lecture block.

“The online connection is important for the ‘Ask’ part. The live stream allows students to ask questions through Mediasite and the faculty can answer within 30 seconds,” Bob said.

Bob’s team pays close attention to the viewing habits of the students, and they also track the raw data. “The result is that the pass rate has improved from 58% to 79% in four years. This is huge.”

In addition to never having to sit through a 50-minute lecture, students are developing efficient study habits and selecting when and where they want to learn.

From the professor’s side, the block system improves upon the didactic lecture model, well developed blocks can live a long time, the students’ ability to review reduces office hours, increase the pass rate and course evaluations improve dramatically.

The I-STAR learning model is on the rise. It’s been introduced into more schools at Tilburg, including Liberal Arts and International Business Administration. Recordings are being done in multiple languages. Student satisfaction ratings have increased from 2.5 to 4.6 (out of 5). And the program is nominated for an RMIA in the Excellence in Education category.

Watch the ceremony live on May 18.