Technology’s Supporting Role in Engaging Students in Higher Education

Fundamentally, technology is here to connect ideas to people, people to ideas and help turn ideas into reality. Students have ideas and need access to as many bridges as can be found in Vancouver to communicate these ideas. When given the freedom to choose their own medium to do so, their engagement increases leading to better outcomes.

In today’s classroom, educators are now more likely to be required to act as guides and facilitators giving students the freedom to use technologies that are most suitable to source out and disseminate information and present this information to their audiences. On top of that, students must select technologies they feel would best deliver their message, technologies they are most comfortable with, and technologies they most enjoy using. With this approach, their cognitive capacity is used to get their message across, and in an enjoyable and stress-free way.

NMC Horizon Report (2017) Higher Education Edition says, “Educators are increasingly expected to employ a variety of technology-based tools, such as digital learning resources and courseware, and engage in online discussions and collaborative authoring. Further, they are tasked with leveraging active learning.” This seems a daunting responsibility for instructors. Let’s turn this claim around and say that “Students are increasingly expected to employ a variety of technology-based tools.” This reflects what students do outside the classroom and on the job, and this connection with the real-world motivates and sparks engagement.

Giving students free-reign in using applications of their choice allows them to run wild with their ideas and get creative with an otherwise mundane task of creating paper after paper.  Generally speaking, students know that video and graphics are today’s medium of information and enjoy incorporating them into their education whenever possible.

We often assist deflated students who must submit papers in prescribed formats but don’t know how to create docx (PC) files from pages (Mac) files, or students who can’t convert docx to pdf. This is a useful skill, but allowing the freedom to submit content in a format of their own choosing tends to motivate and leads to exciting unintended outcomes. On top of the engagement factor, the common task of communicating through various technologies found in today’s workplace should be an option in every (online) classroom. This doesn’t demand a huge toolbox of technologies, just the freedom to choose one’s preferred method to communicate ideas.

Where to start? We can introduce you to a number of technologies that we’ve seen other faculty and their students use in the classroom, technologies that have increased engagement and have improved learning outcomes.

Technology is useless sitting on shelves. Grab something and make it work for you and your students. We can also demonstrate how you can use Blackboard to open the doors to technology allowing students to submit assignments in formats of their choosing. Who knows, instructors may soon be accepting all formats except Word documents greatly reducing the need to read forty 2000 word essays.

And yes, Blackboard does allow for all formats to be submitted. Let’s discuss how.

So, why am I writing this? Good point. I could have as easily put it in an equally-compatible fun and engaging MS Sway presentation. Have a look:

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