Post written by guest authors Rebecca Ng from the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences and Frederick Chew from the Fenner School of Environment and Society with contributions from Rowena Henry-Taylor from the ANU College of Science
In today’s post, we are going to recommend 5 quick ways you can re-engage students.
1. Redesign course activities
When we hear the term “redesign”, we often worry that it would be extremely time consuming but it can be about making small changes to have big impact. For example, my colleague Rowena suggests a strategy of encouraging students to use themed backgrounds that are relevant to the topic of conversation. Instead of assigning students discussion questions to begin with, ask them to talk about their background and why they think it is relevant to the topic. By doing so, you are not only motivating students to appear on camera but also giving them agency to discuss the assigned topic on their own terms.
Instead of taking attendance, we can ask students to participate in polls or comment in the chat. Zoom poll results can be easily generated, thus automating the laborious task of taking attendance. The most important thing is to let students know what you are trying to achieve with each activity (e.g. both attendance-taking and knowledge-checking). Redesigning course activities to make passive tasks (e.g. listening) more active (e.g. participating) are ways to re-engage students.
If you do have a bit more time on your hands, then reconsider recordings. When recording a lesson do we use slides from our lectures or can we redesign our presentation to fit the purpose of a video presentation? Videos are motion pictures so instead of relying on static images, consider purposefully using video clips to keep students engaged. Background soundtracks can create conditions that elicit specific emotional responses. This is how producers draw their viewers in so why not learn from them!
Below is a sample video lesson by Dr Nici Sweaney from the Fenner School of Environment and Society. Nici has cleverly used moving pictures, music, and graphics to create engaging content for her students.
2. Incorporate student’s academic and personal well-being into the delivery of your course
In Day 1‘s post comments, Tim Grace highlighted the use of early assessments to elicit feedback from students. While we are already half way into the ANU semester, we can certainly use simple polls or surveys to inquire about students’ academic and personal well-being. For example, how are they are coping with the course and how well do they think they understand a topic? Even if you are unable to make major changes, you may be able to provide small concessions such as giving students a 5-minute break during class. One academic at CASS created a “Ask me anything” Padlet wall that he uses to find out how students are doing in the course. We’ve recreated it below and seriously, ask us anything!
Link to this Padlet: https://cass.padlet.org/rebeccang1/disengaged
3. Learn about your students and take time to engage with them one-on-one or in small groups
Rowena emphasises the importance of getting to know your students. Learning about their background and experiences enables you to be flexible enough to change course if needed or add new activities where relevant. In Days 1 and 2, we briefly discussed factors for disengagement, many of which are personal or external factors that we do not have control over. Nevertheless, we can still encourage student engagement by responding to some of their needs. For example, you can create a sense of connection with students by using online drop-in sessions.
As mentioned in my comment on Day 1, some of my colleagues have found restructuring tutorials to be useful. For example, some have broken their classes up into segments. One segment involves a small group discussion session facilitated by the educator while other segments are self-paced activities. Small groups are then being rotated through the segments so that you can provide more focused attention to each student.
4. Use technology
Zoom polls, breakout rooms, Padlet walls, Socrative, PollEverywhere, Echo360 ALP, H5P… and have you explored all the available tools on your LMS? Using technology appropriately can encourage additional engagement in your class. While it is important to have a well-organised and easy to navigate course site – see Designing a Sustainable Course Site – in an environment where everything is moving online, we also need to think beyond the LMS if we want to capture our students’ attention. As my colleagues have pointed out to me, we are competing with the Internet! My point here is not to diminish the crucial role of the educator but to simply emphasise the importance of considering other tools and options when our students have access to so much.
For example, a Padlet wall may be an effective and simple way to engage students to share videos, photos and other media. Another example is a project developed by the CASS Education Development Studio using H5P (shown below). The convenor could help students virtually visit an archaeologically significant Cathedral during the lockdown period:
The possibilities are endless and we encourage you to write to us in the comments section or in the Padlet wall above to let us know what you think.
5. Use available analytics and logs to help identify student at risk
While we ought to be cautious when using data, we should not neglect their value in providing insights to behavioural engagement. Using data appropriately can help us plan courses better. In Day 2, we completed an activity identifying indicators of disengagement. Many of these indicators can be found via the LMS logs or through your learning analytics system (if your institution has one).
We will be running an online workshop next Tuesday, 22 September 2020 from 1-2pm on how to analyse Moodle logs, activities, feedback reports, Echo360 stats, and more to help you better understand levels of engagement within your course. Use this link to access the workshop: https://anu.zoom.us/j/92446961663?pwd=QVlVUEZiMFBINmVxZlVVN1k4MzF6QT09
Meeting ID: 924 4696 1663
We hope to see you there!
Lunch Vox: Remote or Isolated: The Student Experience
Join in the conversation about critical issues in education with the ANU Centre for Learning & Teaching’s LUNCH VOX – a webinar series that brings together a panel of local voices to dissect and debate topics in teaching and learning at ANU. This month’s topic is “Remote or Isolated: The Student Experience” and we’d love to have you attend and contribute!
Register here: https://bit.ly/CLT_VOX_2
Will you incorporate any of the suggestions above?
What other ways have you used to engage your students?