10 ways to engage students in online learning and teaching

Dr Paul Gentle shares good practice in getting the most from involving students in change projects.

One of the most rewarding aspects of working on Changing the Learning Landscape lies in the opportunities for learning about inspiring and effective practice.

The Leading in the Learning Landscape Network is a good example of this. Our most recent network event, on 27 February, brought together colleagues from 14 institutions which are diversely passionate in their commitment to driving forward strategic change in online learning and teaching.

There were two powerful triggers for engaging sets of conversations on the day, and both shared common attributes of engaging students in the change process, and of being strongly supported by senior management teams in their respective institutions (the University of Roehampton and Sheffield Hallam University).

One fruitful outcome of group conversations across the day was sharing a set of pointers to good practice in how to engage students in significant change in learning and teaching.

These are:

1. Use wikis or Google docs to enable students to play an active part in strategy development (and feed back to students on which of their ideas have been acted on)
2. Work to build in student engagement into teaching practices by academic teams
3. Bear in mind that students don’t know “everything” about technologies or their potential application; but they can help academics to consider how to incorporate technological innovations within programmes
4. Paying attention to ‘hygiene factors’ is important in planning student engagement activities (including timing, availability of food, refreshments and other small incentives)
5. Seek students’ views on what good looks like (‘What needs to go right for you?’)
6. Incorporate feedback to students on the quality of their contributions to the change process; make sure this has developmental benefits for students
7. Don’t try to engage students in whole-institution change conversations: keep it meaningful by relating to their experience at programme or department level
8. Make sure it matters to students; articulate what’s in it for them
9. Get diverse views by engaging in different ways, using different media
10. Assume students are reasonable, and don’t expect all staff of an institution to change at the same pace and in consistent ways.

We do hope very much that as many as possible of the 60 institutions which have engaged with CLL in 2013-14 will join the network in future. The next network, on Framing and Enhancing Impact in CLL Projects, will be 25 May 2014 in Liverpool. To book a place contact: Bal Sandhu

Dr Paul Gentle is the Leadership Foundation’s director of programmes and programme lead on Changing the Learning Landscape

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