How do we keep our students engaged?
That is one of the most frequently asked questions from a teacher’s point of view.
There might be different outcomes a teacher wants from a course, but we all want students who are interested, who feel inspired and have a great learning outcome.
So what is the trick?
There has been loads of material written about that. I would like to bring up only a few points of view that have helped me to grasp the subject better.
One of the key points in solving this mystery lies within understanding the culture we live in. How the world and the community is changing. What can we expect from the society in the future? How will it be constructed? How will we communicate?
There are some basic principles regarding education, as Vaughan indicates (Vaughan et al, 2013), referring to the work of Chickering and Gamson (1987): seven principles of higher education. Traditional principles that have worked for two decades.
The fact is, as M.Cleveland-Innes points out in her webinar, that we live in a society with a massive technological revolution. The access of internet and computers are greatly facilitated. There is also a globalization, explosion of information from different sources and the demands for accountability grows. All this puts the pressure for change on the universities today. Also the typical students differ. The learners are adults, who might have jobs and families at the same time as they’re studying, compared to the previous late-teen students with no experience in the working life. In addition to different outsets of their lives as students, they also might have different expectations of the courses, in the light of already having a work experience and different backgrounds.
So how do we combine all these new challenges?
One of the key words seems to be “flexible”, according to M.Cleveland-Innes. This includes learning, design of diverse studies, ways of studying, curriculum, admission, delivery and so on. She also gives seven principles of blended online learning, which stresses on both social and cognitive presence. Those are guidelines that are significant to achieve if we want to success. In an online blended learning the aim is to get the students to participate more and more so they become more engaged. If there’s collaborative learning, they are more active and the outcome is better. Our role is to find activities that help them feel more secure in their groups so that the discussions are more fruitful and to trigger more inquiry on the subject. Those are just a few remarks.
Finally, there’s always a question: have we succeeded to teach them? Are we content with the outcome from the students? Are the students content with their outcome? A good way to evaluate that is an assessment: both from the teachers and from the students themselves.
1. Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press.