Increasing Student Engagement Is Faculty’s #1 Priority

Last spring, higher education institutions had to rapidly move to remote teaching. As a result, most faculty across the country found themselves teaching online for the first time in their careers.

To better understand the transition to remote learning and the ongoing impact of the pandemic on teaching and learning, Tyton Partners, in Partnership with Every Learner Everywhere and Digital Promise, conducted a survey that collected responses from over 4,000 faculty members at over 1,500 higher education institutions across the country. The results shed light on many aspects of the transition, including instructional practices used, adjustments to teaching online, which resources proved the most helpful, and more. 

The survey found that the largest concern among faculty was keeping students engaged. In fact, 63% of two year college instructors and 60% of four-year college instructors noted “keeping my students engaged” as the top challenge during the transition to remote learning. 

Because of how quickly institutions had to set up remote learning, it’s not surprising that keeping students engaged was a struggle. But instructors know how important engagement is to the success of their students, which is why 75% of faculty noted “increasing student engagement in class” as their top instructional priority for Fall 2020. 

Odds are, your institution experienced similar challenges of keeping students engaged during remote learning. And because remote learning is cementing itself as part of the new normal, institutions will need to adopt ways to consistently keep students engaged online to provide quality education moving forward. 

Fortunately, there are tools and strategies for delivering consistent opportunities for engagement while students learn remotely that work seamlessly alongside any technology stack and in any course design.

Leveraging Multiple Devices

Having 100% of course material and engagement exercises come through the computer screen makes for a one dimensional learning experience that is susceptible to distractions. Students can be “attending” an online course through their computer while actually focused on liking Instagram photos or scrolling through TikTok videos on their phone. 

By incorporating app-based engagement tools in online course design, instructors can increase student engagement.

Frequent Touch Points

a student using a mobile device to engage with their online courseWhen instructors simply lecture over video conferencing software with slides for hours a day, students easily lose focus and can get distracted.

Being intentional with course design and leveraging technology to build in more frequent touch points can help. A touch point is anything that forces the students to complete an action as part of that day’s lesson, such as polls, pop quizzes, spot checks, longer assessments, and more.

One faculty member who responded to the survey noted that “Shorter and more frequent assessments helped with engagement.”

Frequent touch points serve to refocus students on the lesson. Using an app like CourseKey, which allows instructors to send questions and assessments to students’ devices during lecture, instructors can send out short polls with multiple choice questions or a free response prompt to encourage critical thought. Through a variety of question types, instructors can create a wide range of touch points to engage students, make sure they’re following along, and give them opportunities to validate they’re understanding of the lecture content.

Not only do frequent touch points command student involvement, they can also break up the lesson into more digestible chunks. By administering touch points every ten or fifteen minutes, instructors can keep students from getting distracted and have students reflect on the previous course material before moving on to something new. Through live results, instructors can understand during the class session whether they need to revisit the material or not based on how many students are missing the mark.

Instructors can even use the CourseKey engagement tools to gather feedback from students about the class. By giving students opportunities to make their voices and feelings heard, instructors can show that they care about students’ opinions and are committed to doing what they can to provide the best academic experience possible.

Online Conversations

In an on-ground setting, one of the standard ways to engage students is by asking questions in class or holding class discussions.

The CourseKey platform includes a chat function that enables students to contribute to group conversations during class. For example, instructors can pose a question, push a quick poll to gather insight from the class, and then facilitate a group conversation about the results. Students can voice their opinions, engage with peers, ask follow-up questions, and learn from one another.

Hosting conversations like these over a chat application gives each student the opportunity to contribute to class. In the survey, one faculty member actually noted that using an online chat in their class created more engagement than anticipated, saying “I heard more from some of the quieter students via online chat than I did in the classroom. I want to continue that for in-person classes.”

By facilitating group conversations on a regular basis, instructors can keep students engaged in the course material while reminding them that they’re part of a larger class with their peers.

Checking In For Class

More often than not, when students log on to their live online courses, they’re either waiting for the instructor to see them on the screen or doing a verbal roll call to have their attendance recorded. For larger classes, this can be very time consuming. Starting class on a mundane note can lead to students mentally checking out and being disengaged before the instructor has even started their lesson.

But if students were responsible for checking themself into class, the instructor could bypass boring attendance procedures and jump right into the lesson while student focus is high. CourseKey’s mobile attendance solution places the onus of checking in to class on the students. When class starts, students use their mobile devices to check in, thereby acknowledging that they’re present and ready to learn.

Even the small act of being responsible for their own attendance flips the mental switch to learning mode and helps instructors start class with their students engaged. This responsibility also helps remind students that they’re in control of their education despite the circumstances.

Valuable Interactions

Keeping students engaged during remote learning does not require overhauling course design or implementing complicated procedures. By using technology that students already have access to to facilitate engagement opportunities similar to those found in on-ground classes, instructors can keep students engaged despite being remote. By using a mobile platform to administer frequent touch points with students, facilitate open conversations, and have students check in and out of class, institutions can significantly increase student engagement.

To see the CourseKey platform in action, request a demo below.

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