I WALKED THE HALLS of #edtech15 to find ways to enhance in-hand student engagement. I think my primary conclusion takes me back into Moodle (screenshot below).
Like many other lecturers I met, I face challenges from students who want compelling reasons to truly engage with academic material. Some students already have their life goals planned and don't want to be distracted. But most are drifting, hoping some compelling vista will appear to bring them into the land of full-time employment. To entice both cohorts into making deeper dives in the academic material I create, I need to develop a compelling in-hand experience for students.
Compelling and in-Hand
Compelling in-hand experience? What does that mean? Answering that question makes me think it means determining if students want to put the Moodle icon on their home screens. And as I discovered with the three phones I carry, there's a Moodle app for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.
During an ILTA conference three years ago, I read this article by Scott Jenson, where he walked through arguments about businesses on the internet. Most of the business dealings I have for car maintenance, home repair, or restaurants never clutter either my desktop home screen or the start screen on my Lumia. I get what I need by asking Cortana for their phone numbers or street addresses or menus. And Cortana finds that information very quickly. I couldn't be bothered with installing an app to open it and scroll for the info.
We teach web developers in our creative multimedia programme how to set up their web projects accordingly. Since people need just-in-time information because they're searching with text or voice inputs, the websites must display the information clearly and quickly.
Search. Find. Read. Forget. And don't expect the viewer to install an app. In fact, most of our students don't have room on their phones for more junk.
From my personal experience, the best place to serve news about course material is inside Facebook. This is never going to be a solution for most lecturers because of the indoctrination professionals have received to maintain distinct presences separating their personal and professional lives. But those battle lines were formed last decade and Facebook has obliterated the distinction.
If you have a pressing compulsion to distributing information about an important academic event (a deadline, an important workshop or a guest lecturer), you need to push that information out onto Facebook. It's actually good business training. Get the message ready for dissemination. Include a call for action. Watch the message share. If you need more traction, connect the course news to an event. And if you want the world to know about your excellent course, put some money behind the event through a Facebook ad.
Rethink the experience and come half way
I’d like to meet more educators who rethink the experience and expectations of students entering the 2020 workforce. These students--our current clients--should be asked if they want the icon of the academic courses they are taking on their smartphones. If they don't I will not waste my time or our IT infrastructure on something that deserves to buried.
I do know that our students respect the way Moodle can guide them through years of progressively more challenging academic endeavours. So I'm going headlong into improving the use of Moodle, rearranging each of the five modules I teach into multimedia storytelling moments. From Auguest 2015, each module will require students to upload audio clips or still images directly from their phones into Moodle for assessment.
I'm also creating a Facebook and Google Plus Event in each module for two specific items during every semester I teach. By doing these things, I believe I will enhance the in-hand experience for students.
I’m sure there’s a lot more to discover here. I believe educators from primary to post-graduate should rethink the web they used as students and ensure the course material shared online is meaningful and relevant to a new generation of natives who never heard the sound of a modem wailing into the ether.
If we accomplish this important self-assessment, we'll be closer to offering better engagement to students who may actually dive into our course material while perusing it in-hand.
[Bernie Goldbach is the senior pilot and creative multimedia lecturer at the Limerick School of Art & Design.]