Students today spend extensive parts of their lives in the digital world. Obviously online courses make full use of online learning opportunities, but more traditional classroom based courses can use it as well. Many institutions use virtual learning environments (such as Moodle or Blackboard) where instructors post notes, discussion forums, online quizzes and many other things. But in this post I am discussing the use of other platforms, such as social media that instructors can leverage as an opportunity to engage students, particularly outside of the classroom.
Youtube: As discussed elsewhere on this blog, I am teaching a flipped classroom, so my lectures are posted on Youtube. I chose this platform because students can easily watch videos on almost any device. With the help of online videos, I have increased the number of questions being asked, the notes being taken, and the enjoyment of the course, all measures of engagement.
Facebook: I keep a “professional” Facebook page, where I post items related to biology, medicine and education. My aim is to engage students in biology, outside of the course content and well past the completion of the course.
Skype: I hold “office hours” on campus, but as a general rule, very, very few students ever use this time. Since I don’t have a real office that I spend time in normally, this is time I could put to better use. Colleagues hold Skype office hours and have found many more students make use of these than traditional office hours. I am considering doing this myself: This would be “by appointment”, made in advance. This would greatly expand my availability through the week (I am on campus 2 days per week), and stop me from having to wait in a specific place.
Remind: The free Remind app allows instructor and students to communicate via text message without knowing each other’s phone numbers. Instructors can also simultaneously send a text message to the entire class. I find this useful to send reminders or urgent messages (e.g. if I have to cancel class due to illness). I know that students are more likely to receive and read a text message immediately compared to an email. Students appreciate being able to ask quick questions.