This blogpost aims to provide you with information on some useful tools in Blackboard that can help you monitor student engagement. This was initially produced for a Distance Learner forum but the tools discussed apply to teaching online. In addition to providing some guidance on Blackboard tools, there are also some resources on student engagement and teaching online at the end of this document.
|Statistics Tracking is a useful way for you to monitor how many of your students have engaged with your course materials. This tool is available in Blackboard.
|How do I track students’ use of items in my Blackboard Module?
|Review Status ask learners to mark that they have a reviewed a piece of content. This will allow you to track where learners are with their modules and their items.
Using Review Status places the emphasis on giving students their own review status.
|What is the Review Status in Blackboard?
|Adaptive release gives Instructors a flexible way to control which items in a Blackboard module are available to students. You can customise your material to fit the needs of individual students or groups. This is especially useful if you have both core and supplementary materials. For example, you might want to release supplementary material only to those students who score poorly on an assessment, but not to the whole class. You can set up a path of contingent prerequisites, such that students cannot see more advanced material until they have viewed the introductory material. You can make material available only for the time period when it is relevant, such as before or after a laboratory practical. You may also wish to make material available only to a selected group of students, perhaps releasing information to a group of students on their group project topic.
|How do I use adaptive release to control when items in Blackboard are made available?
|Irwin, B. et al. 2013. ‘Engaging students with feedback through adaptive release’. Innovations in Education and Teaching International. 50: 1. DOI: 10.1080/14703297.2012.748333. Pp. 51-61. Last Accessed 21.10.2019.
|This article looks at the impact of using adaptive release for releasing student feedback. The aim of this approach was to encourage students to engage more fully with their feedback. Using adaptive release in this way can also be used to engage students with their learning tasks.
You can use adaptive release via the grade centre and the completion of a test or quiz, for example, to release the next unit to students. Not only that, you can also use it to hide content once it’s completed.
Resources on Student Engagement
|Blessinger, P. & C. Wankel. Ed. 2013. Increasing Student Engagement and Retention in e-Learning Environments: Web 2.0 and Blended Learning Technologies. Bradford: Emerald Publishing Limited. Last Accessed: 18.10.2019.
Starr-Glass, D. 2013. ‘From Connectivity to Connected Learners: Transactional Distance and Social Presence.’ Pp. 113-143
This publication looks at how technology can be used to engage students. The edited collection provides lots of guidance on learning technologies in teaching.
As the editors identify, ‘any technology, novelty or technical sophistication alone cannot guarantee engagement of learners. These technologies should be used in a purposeful and integrated way and within an appropriate theoretical framework germane to the teaching and learning context’ (2013: 5-6).
One chapter of note is Starr-Glass (Pp. 113-143) who emphasises building a learning community and offering opportunities for collaboration as a way to engage students who are studying at a distance.
Starr-Glass uses Michael Moore’s theory of transactional difference to look at the repercussions of separating the learner from their peers and instructors. The author encourages learners to rely on more than just the technology. Distance Learning also seen as an early form of learner-centric activities.
Starr-Glass argues that we are now at a Fifth Generation of Distance Learning (2005- ) – The intelligent flexible learning model (2013: 118). This is characterised by access to technology environments where ‘[l]earners are viewed as knowledgeable, self-assured, and capable of accessing informational networks’ (ibid.). Opportunities for creating communities amongst peers are also explored.
|Krull, G. & J. M Duart. 2019. ‘Supporting seamless learners: exploring patterns of multiple device use in an open and distance learning context’. Research in Learning Technology. 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v27.2215. Pp. 1-13. Last Accessed: 18.10.2019.
We often think about content of Distance Learning courses but we don’t necessarily think about how our students are accessing their content. In this article, Greig Krull and Joseph Duart look at how students make use of multiple devices. They used semi- structured interviews to analyse their findings.
Their findings suggest that students studying via distance learning tend to work in multiple locations (private and public) ‘demonstrating the potential for seamless learning’ (4).
The study also found that students had access to between 2 and 5 digital devices for learning. On average, students used 3 devices for learning (4).
As the authors indicate, ‘[a]n area for future research is how educators can better support students using multiple devices and how to reduce any potential ‘seams’ in their learning experiences’ (10).
|Meyer, K. 2014. Student Engagement Online: What works and why. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. Last Accessed 21.10.2019.
Meyer examines online learning against a context of retention in Higher Education. Of most interest, might be the section on Experiential and Active Learning (p. 28).Meyer also discusses the importance of fostering an online community amongst learners to encourage engagement with resources. The monograph borrows the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) to consider how you might engage students in online learning.
1. Level of academic challenge
2. Active and collaborative learning
3. Student-faculty interaction
4. Enriching educational experience
5. Supportive campus (online) environment
- Provide clear and easy to understand instructions. This cuts down on the number of emails and queries you will receive.
- Use the technology that you and your students know and can use. Remember that you can include links to our FAQs in your Blackboard course to help your students.
- If you are using your own computer, check that you can do everything you will need to do. If you have any questions you can contact email@example.com. These FAQs will help you:
View the excellent set of resources in the ACUE online teaching toolkit:
See guidance from UK Copyright Literacy on Copyright, Fair Dealing and Online Teaching at a Time of Crisis.
Manage your content
- Active learning at a distance: Think about the learning tasks that you want students to carry out, not just the content covered. Make sure that the tasks are made clear to the students. If the learning task is clear, it will promote active learning even at a distance. For example, a somewhat vague learning task would be to read three articles. A more active task would be to read the three articles and evaluate their arguments relative to each other, or analyse data across several sources to identify patterns, etc.
- Accessibility: Apply principles of good accessibility practice to your PowerPoints, Word documents, and other materials.
- Apply ALT tags to images in any materials.
- Ensure that speaker notes are included in your PowerPoint files and upload the PPT file into Blackboard. Do not just upload a PDF. This gives students another channel to get all of the information you want them to have.
- Use plain English as much as possible. If your students don’t understand something well, they won’t be able to ask you during lecture.
- Make sure that your Blackboard course is easy for students to navigate. They should be able to find the relevant material for each week easily and quickly.
- Reading materials: Ensure that all reading material is accessible through Blackboard. Use Aspire reading lists. If some material is only available in print form (e.g. books in the library), find alternative e-books or online sources they can use instead.
- Adaptive Release: You can use Adaptive Release so your materials appear at set times. Try and avoid too many complicated adaptive release rules as they can make it difficult work out why a student can’t see documents.
- Box of Broadcasts is an excellent resource for TV and radio material. You can arrange recordings of upcoming material or use previously broadcast programmes.
Tests are an excellent way for students to check their understanding of a topic and help you know more about their progress.
- Be sure to include feedback on right and wrong answers, so that your students can learn from the formative quiz.
- You don’t have to give the correct answer but can give links to readings, or further resources to help learn the material.
- Write questions that help your students engage with the material, rather than just remembering facts. You can write questions that require them to analyse material, work with scenarios, and do calculations etc.
Discussion boards are an excellent way to run a remote seminar. They allow students to engage at times that work for them. They are also familiar to many.
- Activities: Provide activities for the students to engage with on the discussion boards – set starter questions that require them to actively engage, for example analysing data, comparing articles, summarising their reading, creating questions from the materials they have read.
- Guidance on engagement: Provide guidance for students on how you want them to engage with the discussion boards.
- For example, you could ask them to write their own posts, and comment on others.
- Tell them how often you want the students to engage and how often you will engage.
- If you are running a thread for each seminar, you may want to keep the discussion going for a week and then start a new one at a set time.
- Guidance on writing:
- Do you want them to write formally or informally?
- Should they reference their reading?
- Short posts are better than essays – the aim of discussion boards is for students to interact rather than just post their essays
Blogs and Journals are a good way of students to document an ongoing process or practice – for example a reading journal. Students can use text, images, video etc. Blogs are visible to all class members, and Journals are private between the student and the instructor.
Wikis are good for group work. They can be used by all the class, or you can split into groups, and each group can have a wiki. Students can use text, images and video, and you can see each student’s contribution.
- Give students clear instructions about how to use the blogs, wikis or journals. Tell them what you expect: how often you want them to contribute and how often you will engage with them.
- Example contributions can be useful to help students understand what you expect.
- You can make comments on posts to provide feedback.
- All three types of activity can be graded if you want to use them as an assessment method.
Panopto recordings are a good way of presenting information to your students along with PowerPoint slides. You can re-use recordings you have already made, but if you are making new recordings specifically for continuity purposes, bear the following in mind:
- Make your videos shorter than a standard lecture. Students will find it easier to concentrate on shorter videos.
- Link the recording to a learning activity for your students. Encourage active listening with questions, or other activities.
- Make the PowerPoint and speakers notes (if you use them) available on Blackboard.
- If you are still working on campus, use teaching rooms or AU equipment to create Panopto recordings. If you are experiencing problems with installing Panopto on your own equipment, consider re-using recordings you have made in previous years until these have been resolved.
Quizzes are a good way of breaking up your recording, similar to the way you would use questions in a lecture
- Write clear questions that will help your students engage with the recording actively.
We are very excited to announce that Professor Ale Armellini will be attending this year’s Learning and Teaching Conference as our Keynote speaker.
From developing, implementing and evaluating Northampton University’s own Learning and Teaching plan, we are highly anticipating Professor Ale Armellini’s thoughts and ideas on this year’s conference theme of Enhancing the Curriculum: Inspire Learning and Invigorate Teaching!
Northampton University’s Learning and Teaching Plan and the Aberystwyth Pedagogical Excellence (APEX) Strategy both emphasise the importance of active learning, and are trying to implement active learning on a wider scale across their respective universities. Active learning is one of this year’s key points of the conference, so to have Professor Armellini as keynote speaker will certainly be a highlight of the event.
Over three phases, Aberystwyth University aims to promote a more sustained student active learning ethos, by following a series of both key strategies and ongoing strategies, through the mediums of Welsh and English. This includes our Active Learning Project, and Staff and Student Mental Health Development as two key areas of strategy, as well as Personal Tutor Enhancement, and Employability Initiatives as part of our ongoing strategic concerns. Ultimately, by the summer of 2022, Aberystwyth University strives to have transformed how we teach and how our students learn, and hopefully encourage other Universities to do the same.
Northampton University’s Learning and Teaching Objectives, developed by our keynote speaker, have some similarities which highlight the importance of pedagogic innovation. Professor Armellini’s role in providing leadership in learning and teaching across the entirety of Northampton University and research on learning innovation and online pedagogy, to name a few of his research areas, means he will be providing the attendees of our conference with invaluable advice and insight.
The Annual Learning and Teaching Conference at Aberystwyth University will be held from the 7th September 2020, to 9th September 2020.
You can follow his twitter feed at @alejandroa
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