What educators should know about using technology to reach their students more effectively.
It might amaze you to discover that technology users are streaming over 86,805 hours of video daily. They’re also engaging with the top social media channels at a staggering rate of nearly 7 million times every minute. That’s a lot of liking going on. Post-secondary institutions are struggling to cut through the clutter their learners are facing. But fret not, educators! Technology can also serve to deliver activities to increase student engagement. The good news is that your audience is already extremely adept at using mobile technology. The next step is to connect with students to provide learning opportunities.
The Importance of Student Engagement in Higher Education
Research shows that students who feel under-challenged by course material and under-engaged by their instructors can risk trending towards tardiness, absenteeism, and eventually, to dropping out (Shernoff, et al., 2003). Institutions are concerned about the economic impact of student attrition in terms of the lost revenue from fees and tuition. But the students themselves suffer the most when you consider how much a career, one’s social status, and a position in one’s community can be tied to a degree or certificate.
Online activities to increase student engagement
Blended or online learning can have their advantages, but attention must be paid to ensure that students don’t feel disconnected from the classroom. Here are four activities to increase student engagement that teachers can do by leveraging a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
Provoke conversations and challenge students
Post more frequently to discussion forums. Technology allows for close monitoring of ongoing course work. Text or video feedback are irresistible ways of communicating with learners. Providing feedback early on in the process will get students acclimatised to how online learning works. Students will be better motivated to interact and react to classroom content if their teacher is calling upon them more, asking their opinion more, and generally, caring more about what they have to say.
Encourage social media usage
Social media channels are where students hang out. Valuable conversations and opportunities for learning can happen in these places, just as easily as in a classroom. You can source and share relevant content directly with learners through social media. You can create hashtags to help students follow online discussions. However, caution should be taken to ensure that institutional policies are followed to deal with safety, security, and privacy concerns.
Be clear about how and when to get in touch
If you’re going to be away for more than a day, make sure that students are well informed. Be clear about when you’re available for both in-person contact, as well as screen time. Of course, provide email addresses so students have a simple line of communication. But also encourage students to share information with each other to create a community space where frequently asked questions can be addressed. Again, it’s important for instructors to moderate these discussions to ensure that the information is correct, and to identify students who may be doing exceptional work in this environment.
Use automation to monitor progress and communicate with students
Okay, not to get too technical, but you’re on a blog for a sophisticated learning management system, so you should have expected it. Instructors can set conditions for content so learners are required to complete certain tasks (like watch a video or submit a quiz). They can send accolades for exceptional work as well as advice for improvement to students who might be beginning to drift away. Technology is there to help teachers provide intervention and extension activities to increase student engagement in a more timely and personalised approach.
Celebrating greatness and singing praises
Virtual classrooms are informal locations and learning can occur anywhere. Because of this, students might feel as if their contributions or moments of learning are going unnoticed. It’s important to validate learning, no matter where it takes place (e.g.: watching and responding to a TEDTalk, or linking to a relevant news article or YouTube video.) The more involved an instructor becomes in the online activities of students, the more these students will feel validated for the learning they are demonstrating. And celebrating accomplishments is definitely one of the best ways to keep your class involved in and proud of the work that they, and their classmates, are doing.
Are you interested in delving deeper into how to increase student engagement? Download the eBook Creating Connections to get more insight into what you can do to keep your students on the path to success.
Shernoff, David & Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly & Shneider, Barbara & Shernoff, Elisa. (2003). Student Engagement in High School Classrooms from the Perspective of Flow Theory. School Psychology Quarterly. 18. 158-176. 10.1521/scpq.126.96.36.19960.