Overview: In Summer 2020, EDLI worked with MSU IT to rapidly scale up campus deployment of an AI-powered discussion tool, Packback.

Outcomes: EDLI worked with MSU IT to identify a common problem in online teaching – the difficulty very large courses had in using discussion boards in a meaningful way. EDLI identified Packback as a tool that could address this problem, and that was already in use in a handful of classes on campus. Working with MSU IT, EDLI facilitated a series of meetings with Packback, ultimately leading to MSU IT funding an enterprise license for the tool. This was the first time in Packback’s history that an entire campus adopted the tool, and it was their first enterprise license. In its first campus-wide semester, over 11,000 students used the tool. At $25 per student, per semester, in the first year alone MSU students saved over $500,000. In the years since, use of the tool has grown steadily, and savings for students have done the same.

Future plans: EDLI continues to broker a healthy relationship between Packback and MSU IT, and the tool is widely used on campus for a variety of different instructional needs.


Author/Personnel: Jeremy Van Hof, Stephen Thomas, Scott Schopieray

Stephen Thomas

Dr. Stephen Thomas is a faculty member and the Associate Director for the Center for Integrative Studies in General Science at Michigan State University and the Digital Curriculum Coordinator for the College of Natural Science. He provides expertise for the EDLI team in pedagogy, curricular reform, and visual thinking.