Old Problem, New Approach

Increasing student engagement with online learning platforms.

GUEST COLUMN | by Todd Rothman

credit-wyz-prepWe are at a game-changing time in the history of education. Never before have we been more “connected” to our students as we are today. For educators, e-learning technology is paving the path for a new, modern, and fully engaging education. Video streaming, asynchronous and synchronous communication, interactive learning, and real-time collaboration are just a few of the amazing technological developments available today. As educators, we must assess how we use these new tools and assure that we are succeeding in the long term to increase learning.

Students will find more interest in their available resources if they are provided direct, personalized benefits.

Over the past few decades many approaches have been designed to inspire, motivate and stimulate long lasting student engagement while they learn. From promoting classroom participation and after school programs to encouraging study groups, peer homework activities and collaborative projects, teachers are constantly creating opportunities to foster better understanding of topics. The results of these efforts are not as impressive as we would have imagined. Sure, students participate in these efforts but students simply don’t engage long term (at least not the same way that they engage during playtime or similar leisurely activities).

So the question is why? Why don’t students engage more with all these crafted strategies that we have concocted? Below please find several important elements that can transform learning and truly engage the student of today.

Data in, data out – collecting the correct information about student usage and performance

Observing how students learn and what seems to be most enjoyable and successful to them while they learn online, allows educators to track student performance, their order of actions in the system, and to identify their level of engagement with the technology.

Learning platforms are constantly improving the type of resources available to students (videos, animations, interactivity) as well as the way in which the resources are delivered (mobile, desktop, Smart TVs, other portable devices).

Since e-learning technologies are really good at delivering and organizing all sorts of information, educators can track usage information about their students to substantially increase student engagement For starters we can see what type of resource a student enjoys, as it is important to realize that not all students are the same. Some lean more towards videos while others like to read to get to the key points. By tailoring the solutions and creating more personalized learning options, we are working with the technology to improve performance, not working against it.

By customizing platforms and resources, this enables us to understand a student’s level of technology usage. The end result is that students will find more interest in their available resources if they are provided direct, personalized benefits.

Assemble students into intelligent cohorts based on the unique skills of each member in the group

Students are more likely to engage when they see that they achieve success and are able to offer tips and strategies to others. The popularity of online gaming highlights collaboration and the enjoyment students receive when working in teams as they play.

In addition, combining diversity in learning styles and levels has become a proven successful learning strategy. By tracking student performance and interactions, we can group students in their class who offer unique value to the group. For example, a student that is strong in math but weak in history can offer their math skills to a weaker student in a peer-to-peer environment. The boost in confidence and camaraderie is invaluable.

Provide a framework where students can post questions and connect with their peers through a proven learning platform

Choosing the right learning platform to connect students and their learning levels is key. If educators are able to hone in on a student’s strengths, it helps to create long lasting engagement while they are learning. Unlike a classroom where people are called randomly or students ask their nearest neighbor a question, an intelligent learning platform can help connect the students in a more sophisticated way.

Interactive question and answer sessions connect students and their educational needs with concise, focused strategies. The conversation becomes more engaging and the knowledge base can be expanded. Someone who may not feel comfortable answering out loud in a big auditorium, has the power of the keyboard to offer notes or comments on a topic and still be heard. The conversation and dialogue is much more connective. Ultimately, the technology platform creates an even playing field so everyone’s a valued contributor.

Create unique opportunities for students to work with other students from outside their class

As e-learning platforms expand so does their global scope. Learning projects that may have been limited in the past can now be collaborative nationwide and even worldwide. Students can now be paired based on their unique skills and assigned unique tasks. Coordinated learning as a team to achieve agreed upon goals makes the topic more interesting. Communication via Facebook, Skype, or other online forums, provide educators and students alike a platform to stimulate the learning process in a whole new way. As e-learning technology continues to evolve, it is imperative for educators to embrace students from all over the globe to coordinate skills and abilities for projects, competitions and research.

In conclusion, as we utilize technology for all aspects of our daily life, it is imperative for educators to utilize e-learning technology to its fullest extent. As educators, we must assess how we use these new tools if we are to succeed in the long term to increase in student engagement and foster successful commitment to learning.

Todd Rothman is co-founder of WYZ Prep, a state-of-the-art e-learning experience for prospective MBA students searching for support and guidance while studying for their GMAT exam.

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