Engaging Today’s Student

I have heard from many faculty that our students don’t ever seem to read the textbook. While I would argue that this is true beyond my institution’s walls (and in some cases hold true for faculty and administrators – I know I am guilty too), the norm seems to be to lecture to students to make sure they “get it”. Well, if you think about it, why should students read, if we’re going to go over the entire text in class?

Most lectures, whether F2F or online, should be spent explaining those particular concepts/ideas/procedures/rules/problems that we, as content experts, know our students will have problems with.

When I teach Blackboard, I know my students will have trouble with some of the interactive tools like Assignments or Discussion Boards. When I teach College 110 (intro to college), I know my students are going to have issues with writing about their passions and why they are in school. So those are things that get talked about “in class”, whether F2F or online. In Blackboard, whether I use a text-based lecture or a Podcast depends on the content that I need to deliver. In fact, I will be experimenting with pod-casting in my fall course, so I will keep you informed on how well that goes over with our students.

Here are some good guidelines for posting your text-based lecture in Blackboard:

  • No more than a page of text at a time. If there’s more than that, students don’t read it. It’s the old “scroll avoidance” wisdom. I hate scrolling, and I know that many of you have heard me say that. If a user has to scroll through more than 2 screens of material, you’ve lost most of them.
  • “Chunk” the information. By delivering the important stuff in small easily read blocks of text, you give your reader a chance to understand and make connections with the text.
  • Use an outline for organization. This helps you follow the one page rule. Break your secondary points into separate documents.
  • Use visual organizers, like bullet points, graphics to illustrate a concept, color and bold text.
    • These visual organizers help students develop their cognitive map of the subject matter. So not only is it easier for them to read, it is helping them learn the discipline, as you are showing them how an expert organizes the subject matter.
    • It is also easier to link back to a specific thought or idea .
    • Use the KISS method (keep it simple, stupid!) Students do need to read the textbook and other references that you provide. Faculty give students focus, insight or alternative view of the material.
    • Allow the students to create their own constructs of the content. Then they can build upon their knowledge. This is known as “scaffolding” and is a foundation for constructivist learning theory.
  • Refer to your resources. Reference the textbook and other resources. Have a website that illustrates the concept perfectly? Using case studies? Let those tools enhance your class. As the subject matter expert, you guide the class and provide focus, insight, or an alternative view of the material.
  • Ask a colleague read your stuff. Make sure it makes sense. We tend to get so familiar with our subjects, that sometime we forget what it was like when WE were the students.
  • Get your students involved in creating the lecture material. If you are doing demonstrations in the class, have your students take pictures and notes and send them to you. Then assemble and upload to Blackboard. Give them credit as co-author. You would be surprised at how students will retain the information if they are creating their own constructs. Additionally, many people tend to learn more when they help in the teaching.

These are some ideas to get you started on thinking about integrating Blackboard with your campus class. Please post any comments, ideas, successes or failures to this blog. As I said before, we are all experts with something to share.

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