Enhance student engagement

Nurturing student engagement has rarely been such a challenge, a situation probably compounded by hybrid, blended and remote learning. Many higher education teachers are battling dwindling attendance in live classes as well as reduced motivation and interaction among those who do attend in person. While definitions of student engagement can differ, this collection of resources shows that creating fun, interactive lessons, learning how to connect with students and using technology effectively go a long way to getting your class onside.

Engaging teacher spot

What is student engagement?

There is a wealth of higher education teaching and learning resources that argue for a focus on student engagement, and about as much guidance on how they can do so. The UK’s Office for Students even included “student engagement” as one of the key assessment themes in its teaching excellence framework. But what is student engagement? How can we give it a unified definition when so many educators have created their own? Chris Headleand, director of teaching and learning for the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, recently launched a survey that asked: how do you define student engagement? About 200 current and former staff and students responded. Read his resource to find out his conclusions. 

What is student engagement?

The move online compounded matters, but even before that, nobody could agree on what student engagement was – and that needs to change, says Chris Headleand

Chris Headleand

University of Lincoln

Being present to improve classroom engagement 

In an age where video clips, stories, interactive exercises, polls and quizzes and the like have replaced monologues, the role of the lecturer is almost unrecognisable. Sandi Mann, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, has spent decades studying boredom and argues that nowadays, teachers must first and foremost engage the student, and only then can they teach. Imparting wisdom is no longer enough. And, with so many more demands on students’ attention, we must work harder and harder to engage them.

In their resource, Kinga Györffy and András Matolcsy give advice influenced by psychology-based rhetoric training, which dictates that the effectiveness of a lecture can no longer be imposed by the power of authority, but must be earned, together with the trust of the audience. They touch on points such as developing presentation skills, making lessons more interactive and building trust. 

Using AI to encourage active engagement

Much of the talk around GenAI has been about its impact on academic integrity, but tools such as ChatGPT also have the potential to encourage active engagement in the classroom. In the fourth part of their series, Seb Dianati, academic lead for digital learning initiatives and Suman Laudari, a digital learning designer, both at Charles Darwin University, outline 25 examples of prompts that show how these tools can help keep students interested, connected and motivated.

Artificial intelligence and XR tools are changing education and preparing students to live and work in an unpredictable world. Monica Arés, executive director of the Innovation, Digital Education and Analytics Lab (IDEA Lab) at Imperial College London, speaks to Campus about the evolution of edtech from the early days of virtual reality and immersive technology’s potential for unlocking curiosity and improving engagement in the classroom.

Incorporating games into the curriculum

An escape room experience is an excellent way of engaging students, developing soft skills such as teamwork, leadership, communication and problem-solving and putting hard skills into practice, argues Bernardo Nunes, a senior lecturer at the Australian National University. In his video, he explains how he created an escape room experience to help his students understand and connect the abstract and sometimes confusing concepts in his computer science class.

Many games encourage cooperation, group work and the development of communication and problem-solving skills and, while traditionally used more in early years education settings, there is no reason not to integrate them into teaching in higher education contexts to increase student engagement. Chris Headleand at the University of Lincoln explains different types and their applications for adult learners.