Multimodal Strategies to Increase Student Engagement — League of Innovation Summit

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Multimodal Strategies to Increase Student Engagement 

The focus of this forum is to experience multimodal universal design strategies aimed at increasing student engagement. Formal student engagement directly increases student success and indirectly increases student goal completion. Participants will gain special insights through small group practice.

William Strond, Professor, Biology, Oakton Community College, IL

Many new online instructors initially create online courses that are fairly linear and mostly text. They quickly realize that such an approach would not work for every student, particularly those in  pre-college learning courses.

Many begin by writing lectures in a rather formal style, almost as though the pages were a textbook before they come to realize why it isn’t working. Teaching is an art, and not all people are very good at reading, and their engagement level is going to be fairly low, regardless of how much the content grips someone who loves the text.

Practical advice you can take to bring life back into your online classes using multimodal strategies:

1. Change the activity every 15 or 20 minutes.

Instructors in a traditional classroom can immediately see their students losing interest— but these cues are not available in the online environment, so estimate how much time each activity in you course is likely to take students and change learning modes when necessary.

One way to break up the content is by using videos, mp3s and screencasts created with Camtasia as a way of demonstrating the concepts presented in your lectures. In addition to engaging students in a different way, there are certain concepts that are easier to understand in this format. Realize that there are times when you as a teacher really want to show them how things go. Show them how you take main ideas from one assignment and apply them to one or more individual lesson items. This will make learning physical, and the making will deepen understanding among your students

2. Repeat the lesson in multiple modes to reinforce the learning. In addition to breaking up the monotony, presenting the same concepts in more than one mode can reinforce ideas and help students learn in ways that suit them best. Students may notice the repetition, but in a typical lesson it is possible to repeat the same information in three different modes.

A typical lesson might include a Web page, an animated PowerPoint presentation, and perhaps a video—so that you’re giving them the same material in three different ways. They may be reluctant to go back and read the Web page, but what they don’t realize is that in the three lessons they’ve gotten the same exact information three different times.

In addition to incorporating these various modes within each lesson, intersperse quiz questions throughout. If you’ve been telling students what’s going to be on the quiz, you can actually see the answers as you read or as you listen. Some students learn best with facts and when points are on the line. This acts as a motivator and shows that the quizzes are directly connected to your course content.

3. Create supplementary activities if necessary. Sometimes students fail to grasp the content immediately. In a face-to-face course, this lack of understanding can be remedied easily with a quick and simple review. Consider the same thing in your online courses when low quiz grades or other indications that students are failing to understand something. In these instances, consider  creating a quick Camtasia screencast and incorporates that into the next lesson as a review.