Class Engagement Techniques in a Hybrid Setting
Reimala Sivalingam is a teaching-focussed lecturer in Accounting and Finance at Alliance Manchester Business School,
University of Manchester. As a digital champion and advocate for innovative approaches in teaching, Reimala uses a broad range of readily available resources and digital tools within her courses. Her goal as an educator is to promote active learning techniques that motivate, inspire, and challenge critical thinking to maximise students’ potential for intellectual and personal growth. As a Certified Practising Accountant (CPA Australia), Reimala draws on her professional skills of being an accountant to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
The pandemic created both a challenge and an opportunity to reimagine teaching and learning in higher education. One of the biggest challenges for academics was the need to embrace the introduction of a hybrid teaching and learning model, in particular the use of dual delivery methods with some students being on campus and the rest online. In this blog, Reimala Sivalingam from Alliance Manchester Business School shares theory-based teaching strategies and practical tools that can increase engagement and inclusivity in a hybrid setting.
The complexities and experience of teaching in hybrid settings have adversely affected class engagement and student attendance compared to pre-pandemic levels. Despite the challenges, the hybrid setting also created the opportunity to rethink teaching approaches and move away from the traditional didactic lecture style. As course delivery methods continue to evolve, the ways in which we teach and engage with students will only become more imperative. Here are some of the strategies and readily-available tools that I have implemented to increase student engagement in my classes:
- Use a flipped classroom approach
I adopted the flipped classroom approach (Lea 2015) to redesign my curriculum for Fundamentals of Management Accounting to make it more inclusive and encourage flexible learning. This involved creating a combination of synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning activities including assessment tasks that systematically aligned to the intended learning outcomes (ILOs) of the course [Biggs and Tang 2011:11). I moved traditional lectures covering the explanatory material into bite size instructional videos in line with Mayer’s (2009) ‘segmenting principle’ to enable students to pace their learning whilst using live lectures and seminars for facilitating active learning with practical case study examples.
- Create reusable bite sized learning content
For recording bite size lecture content, I used Microsoft PowerPoint 365’s screen by screen recording functionality which was time saving as editing was minimal and this approach was useful for future updates. Richard Mayer’s (2009) cognitive theory of multimedia principles was helpful in fostering meaningful learning by presenting visual and verbal material. Mayer’s ‘signalling principle’ helped me to draw students’ attention to ILOs by using verbs to describe the learning activities (Biggs and Tang, 2011) and explain the interconnectedness of topics. I used Mayer’s ‘image principle’ to include relevant animations and visuals that helped reinforce the audio voiceover and limit the talking head to the start to avoid distraction during the session. As less is more, I used minimal text on the slide and ‘voice principle’ to narrate it in a conversational style. Given my background in professional practice, I found it useful to include many practical examples to illustrate the core concepts for enhanced understanding and summarise key takeaways from the topic.
- Create a sense of community and knowledge sharing
For social presence, I was cognisant that a sense of isolation and anxiety can be reduced by facilitating a safe environment for students to engage and maintain group cohesion. I introduced Piazza to promote a fair and equitable approach to answering student queries. Piazza gave students anonymity options to encourage even the shy students to ask questions and allowed instructor endorsements of good questions. In my introductory lecture, I shared the benefits of using Piazza for community building to support collaborative learning in a hybrid environment (Garrison, 2008).
- Promote critical thinking
For cognitive presence, I encouraged higher order thinking (Lipman, 1995) by stimulating intellectual curiosity to critique and engage with literature to enable students to make sense of their learning and relate it to the real world. Learning activities required students to actively engage in critical thinking based on their reading of shared articles. I used Mentimeter to create a thought-provoking word cloud question linked to the sustainability agenda, ‘What is the purpose of a business’ and embedded it within Blackboard to promote equal opportunity for participation. It was rewarding to see the results summarise diverse perspectives beyond textbook definitions and demonstrate students conceptual understanding of the topic through collaborative learning.
In workshops, Padlet was also a useful tool to encourage critical thinking on conceptual theories for increased knowledge (Ramsden, 2003) and effective application of the principles in the case studies discussed as evidenced in student feedback; ‘workshops with Reimala were very helpful as it was very interactive and required thinking and discussion’.
- Create a well organised course and maintain presence
It was important for the course to be well organised on the learning management system and the course structure clearly articulated in an inclusive and accessible manner. I used a consistent format for setting up weekly learning activities that provided clear instructions to students based on prioritised and optional materials. For teaching presence, I maintained contact with students through weekly announcements about their learning activities which students commented ‘a detailed outline of all activities expected to be done every week was helpful’ in the course evaluation feedback.
- Provide continuous learning opportunities
I created feedback opportunities that supported individual students learning whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. (Kolb, 2015). I designed a combination of formative and summative assessments (Hattie, 2012) that involved continuous learning using weekly practice quizzes and a final summative examination in helping students achieve the ILOs.
Students that engaged with this form of continuous learning benefitted from knowing ‘where they are and where they should be’ (Biggs and Tang 2011:65) as evidenced in their feedback, ‘the practice quiz for each topic is really useful’. Based on their performance in the weekly formative quizzes, students were able to challenge their own misconceptions, identify areas for improvement and focus their understanding of key concepts (Ramsden, 2003).
- Adapt style to be inclusive
I had several international students who were not comfortable switching on their cameras. Coming from an international background myself, I realised I had to adapt to a more inclusive teaching approach that was empathetic and sensitive to culturally diverse environments (Caroll & Ryan, 2005). I encouraged students to get involved by using their profile pictures and the screen share functionality in Zoom which they preferred as it gradually increased their confidence and improved participation evidenced by student feedback; ‘each time I have the chance to show my workings and know where I went wrong’.
As hybrid teaching continues to be the new norm, the above techniques can help address the challenges of poor student attendance and engagement on courses in improving student learning outcomes. Finding innovative ways to connect with students can address feelings of isolation and better support students learning experience.
Biggs, J & Tang, C. (2011) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, SRHE
Carroll, J. & Ryan, J. (2005) Teaching International Students: Improving Learning For All (Routledge) [Online] Available at: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/manchester/reader.action?docID=308690
Garrison, D. R. & Vaughan, N. (2008). Blended learning in higher education: Framework, principles and guidelines. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass [Online] Available at: https://r4.vlereader.com/Reader?ean=9781118180174
Hattie, J. (2012) Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. London: Routledge. [Online] Available at: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/manchester/reader.action?docID=958163
Kolb, D. (2015) Experiential Learning: Experience As The Source of Learning and Development, Second Edition, Pearson Education, Inc. [Online] Available at: https://r4.vlereader.com/Reader?ean=9780133892505
Lea, J. (2015) Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. McGraw Hill Education
Lipman, M. (1995) Moral education higher‐order thinking and philosophy for children, Early Child Development and Care, 107:1, 61-70, DOI: 10.1080/0300443951070108
Mayer, R, (2009) Multimedia Learning. Second Edition, Cambridge University Press [Online] Available at: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/manchester/reader.action?docID=424624
Ramsden, P. (2003) Learning to Teach in Higher Education. London: Routledge. [Online] Available at: https://search-ebscohost-com.manchester.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=nlebk&AN=95908&site=ehost-live
This post was made originally for CENGAGE: https://www.cengage.co.uk/blog/class-engagement-techniques-in-a-hybrid-setting/