Faculty Resource Network

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How Faculty Members Can Design and Implement Pedagogy That Incorporates Educational Technologies to Help Increase International Student Engagement and Academic Performance

 

Engaging With Diversity in the College Classroom
A National Symposium
November 17-18, 2017
Dillard University
New Orleans, Louisiana

 

Sheila T. Gregory, Clark Atlanta University

Introduction

This paper provides resources for engaging the diverse array of students on today’s college campus. It also demonstrates how student engagement increases student motivation and achievement. It will introduce current innovative practices that embrace international students and engage them in two ways: First, by giving students the option of using multiple technological methods and/or social media, such as Facebook, in course assignments, which enhances the interest of the student and, in turn, increases learning outcomes and student motivation. Second, through the faculty member’s disposition towards and savvy use of technology, as evidenced in their instructional practices and innovative approaches that better engage international students, including gaming.

Some basic examples of tools used by the new techno-faculty are Facebook and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). BYOD can cut down on students who are not paying attention in class, due to Facebook or other screen distractions, because it requires that they use their cell phones for academic purposes. Reinforcing some current and more basic practices for the technology-hesitant faculty member to get their feet wet allows them to address the needs of international students, before diving into more advanced technologies. Nearly all students can keep up with and prefer using technology, especially their own, to learn their coursework, communicate with faculty, and collaborate with fellow students.

Background

Clark Atlanta University (CAU) is a single, comprehensive, urban, private, coeducational, United Methodist-affiliated Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the United States. The campus has 38 areas of study in four major schools, including arts and sciences, business, education, and social work. The university also has an award-winning Center for Cancer Research and Therapeutic Development, and enjoys more than 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students of diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. CAU offers certificate, professional, and degree programs from BA/BS to EdD/PhD. The president of CAU, Ronald A. Johnson, became the fourth person to hold that position on July 1, 2015. CAU is one of five schools that compose the Atlanta University Center. The other four schools are Spelman College, Morehouse College, the Interdenominational Theological Center, and the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Dr. Gwendolyn Mitchell, who directs the Center for Faculty and Professional Development (CFPD), has generously provided her time and talents for the benefit of faculty interested in educational technology. Tailor-made teaching and learning technology workshops are available for faculty at various stages of development. Weeklong faculty training is offered in the summer, with shorter training offered throughout the year. As members of one of the Faculty Resource Network (FRN) participating institutions, faculty can write proposals to attend professional development seminars, symposia, conferences, and summer residencies, sponsored by New York University in the winter, summer, and fall. This researcher has benefitted from these opportunities for the past few years. This article is an extension of a poster session this researcher presented at the FRN Winter Symposium on November 17-18, 2017, at Dillard University, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Using Facebook as a Pedagogical Tool to Increase Student Engagement and Academic Performance

With over 1.48 billion monthly users, including many college students, Facebook is increasingly being used as an educational tool. A Facebook page can be created for a large enrollment course, and student engagement with, and attitudes about, the page can be assessed using both Facebook metrics and student surveys. Students enjoy the “likes,” “clicks,” and “shares,” as well as viral spread of posts. The results in my own classes suggest that student-generated content for course-related Facebook pages increased engagement.

Using Facebook as a Pedagogical Tool to Increase Student Engagement and Academic Performance

With over 1.48 billion monthly users, including many college students, Facebook is increasingly being used as an educational tool. A Facebook page can be created for a large enrollment course, and student engagement with, and attitudes about, the page can be assessed using both Facebook metrics and student surveys. Students enjoy the “likes,” “clicks,” and “shares,” as well as viral spread of posts. The results in my own classes suggest that student-generated content for course-related Facebook pages increased engagement.

Designing Learning through Interactive Gameplay

Gaming continues to be a widely discussed and practiced aspect of curricula across institutions of education all over the United States and the world. Educators have recognized the ways gaming has improved education by increasing student engagement, providing immediate and quality feedback, and helping students to better understand and process their course materials. Over the past ten years the development of technology has allowed for new modes of digital engagement and game play, but there are still a number of gaming applications that can be applied in the classroom through analog means.

Gameplay Interactive aims to provide the most engaging gaming experience by replicating the best of land-based casino experiences for all players. Its products can be fully integrated, enabling players to access online, mobile, and server-based gaming terminals. Gameplay Interactive has a full suite of games and nearly all of the products are multi-lingual.

Future of Digital Devices in the College Classroom

What is clear is that college students today are more frequently using digital devices in their courses and bringing personal mobile devices to the classroom (Hashim, 2014). College instructors are reserving and bringing to class computer equipment such as laptops and tablets to enhance their teaching and support student learning. Less clear is the precise way that students are using these devices during class. Students may use digital devices either for academic purposes, such as research or collaboration, or, conversely, to “fight boredom, entertain themselves and stay connected to the outside world” (McCoy, 2013, p. 1).

At institutions across the country, the demand for online courses is increasing. Since virtual courses are here to stay, it is imperative that instructors learn how to best engage students and create effective online learning environments to improve academic performance. Research shows that students often feel isolated in online courses; therefore, it may be more important that online courses include ample student-to-student and student-to-instructor communication to counteract this problem. Additionally, research shows that through the use of meaningful communication-based assignments, students can be actively involved in an online course and build connections with peers and the instructor. Without multiple opportunities for teacher-to-student and peer-to-peer interaction, online courses can suffer from reduced student involvement.

Since many students have their own unique way of learning, technology and technology-based programs give a variety of students the resources and opportunities to excel in their classrooms. For example, when using an online program that often accompanies Pearson textbooks, students are able to study in many different modalities in order to gain clarity and ensure they fully understand the information. This program can provide students with visual aids in addition to text. It also provides practice problems that relate to each chapter. Along with these practice problems, there are written and video explanations for the problems that students may have found challenging. This program provides a good resource for students who need in-depth, verbal explanations. Students are able to read the textbook and get more in-depth video explanations, and further practice problems, until all the information is absorbed. Because many international students benefit from visual learning, the video explanations can be particularly helpful for them.

Another way some students may learn best is by creating mind maps that pertain to their course content. According to Tony Buzan (2012), who invented them, “A Mind Map is a powerful graphic technique that provides a universal key to unlock the potential of the brain. It harnesses the full range of cortical skills – word, image, number, logic, rhythm, color and spatial awareness – in a single, uniquely powerful manner” (p. vi). Mind maps are known to be one of the most effective ways of learning. Some graduate educational classes engage with an app called XMind that allows students to study and research better by creating mind maps on the computer.

Another common application some college professors are utilizing in their classrooms is called Top Hat. This app is a “student engagement platform” for use inside the classroom and out. It allows professors to take roll by providing the instructor with a code that can be relayed to the students currently in the classroom. If the student is not in the classroom, they are not able to have the code and are not able to see the notes or materials for the lecture. Although this may seem like a disadvantage for the student, with special permission or a request from the professor, the student can have access to the code. This is great for on-the-go students. They are also able to access all notes and PowerPoint presentations right off their phones. Rhett McDaniel, an educational technologist for the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University, has found Top Hat to be effective in improving classroom engagement. In July 2017, the Center began offering Top Hat training for faculty, students, and staff across the campus.

Conclusion

In summary, research has shown that the classroom use of digital devices helps facilitate faculty-student interactions and in-class participation, which leads to enhanced engagement and active learning (Lam & Tong, 2012). Most traditional-aged college students spend many hours a day with technology. Rather than force students to put away their devices in class, many faculty design their courses to meet students where they are, by infusing their courses with technology. With the increasingly global and diverse student population, more faculty need to take full advantage of the technology training available to them. Not only will it benefit their students, but it will also benefit their professional practice.

 

 
 
References

Buzan, T. (2012). The power of spiritual intelligence: 10 ways to tap into your spiritual genius. New York: Harper Collins.

Dixon, M. (2010). Creating effective student engagement in online courses: What do students find engaging? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10(2), 1-13.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text -based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(3), 1-19.

Hashim, K. F., Tan, F. B., & Rashid, A. (2015). Adult learners’ intention to adopt mobile learning: A motivational perspective. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46, 381–390.

Lam, P. & Tong, A. (2012). Digital devices in classroom – Hesitations of teachers-to-be. Journal of e-Learning, 10(4), 387–395.

McCoy, B. (2016). Digital distractions in the classroom: Student classroom use of digital devices for non-class related purposes. Journal of Media Education, 7(1), 5-32.

Rogers, Y., Connelly, K., Hazlewood, W., & Tedesco, L. (2010). Enhancing learning: A study of how mobile devices can facilitate sensemaking. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 14(2), 111-124.