by Wilfredo Rodríguez

Student Engagement is a very popular concept in Higher Education. It refers to the amount and quality of time students spend with the content which extends beyond the classroom. It also involves the relationship between faculty and students, students with other students, the community involvement and the university or colleges as a whole. The more exposure students have with the content they are trying to learn, they tend to get more inquisitive, curious and interested. Therefore, they will have a better learning experience. Technology plays an important role in this arena since there are many tools available to promote engagement. This article focuses on technology tools that facilitate student engagement.

Many faculty use and are familiar with Blackboard, CUNY’s Learning Management System (LMS). Blackboard provides different tools to engage students; one of them is Discussion boards or threaded discussions: facilitate engagement by creating a community of learning rather than individual submission of assignments. This facilitates critical thinking due to fact that students can interact with and responds to others questions / answers.

Another Blackboard powerful engagement tools is the Journal. This allows a private communication channel between each student and the faculty member. Students may express any concern about the course or it may serve to report class progress. Blackboard Wiki is yet another excellent engagement tools since it is used to ask students to generate a repository of knowledge or course review concepts that can be used as a final review. Blackboard also provides another tools that foster engagement, blogs. As stated here, blackboard offers many engagement tools that faculty can tailor to expose students to course content and align them to course objectives.
Another great app to immerse students in active learning is NearPod. It allows instructors to deliver class content in a very dynamic way where they can lock the device students are using to interact with the material. Additionally, this app has very useful features like sending students to specific websites, the ability to create pre and post quizzes and polls as part of the content so that faculty can have an understanding about whether students grasp the concept or not. Instructors are able to design engaging activities for their students where they are asked to draw, type, matching, take a picture or create videos for their responses. NearPod contains all needed elements to fully engage students.

Engaging students is very important in order for them to succeed in their courses and in their academic life. And the following two apps that will be discussed just do that. Poll Everywhere and Socrative are very good apps at engaging students. Both allow faculty to create poll questions prepared ahead of time or on-the-fly and students provide their answers using mobile devices or from web browsers. Instructors have the ability to share the responses with their students if they want to do so. One feature that Poll Everywhere has that Socrative does not is that students can submit their responses by text messages if they prefer. As described above, Poll Everywhere and Socrative are excellent apps when it comes to students’ engagement.

In short, engaged students show a better understanding of the learned content and they have better performance and achievements in their academic life than those who do not. Technology plays a critical role in this arena due to the fact that there are many tools available that make the process easier and smoother. Blackboard tools, NearPod, Poll Everywhere and Socrative are extremely useful at providing the mean to engage students.




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