How Pandemic-Introduced Innovative Teaching Adaptations Can Improve Student Engagement

Education Technology Insights | Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Teaching practices quickly embraced prototypical teaching methods based on technology amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

FREMONT, CA: The COVID-19 pandemic created a chance for positive change in traditional teaching methods. These adaptations can occur reengagement in and out of class while allowing more flexibility for learners and offering instructors more remarkable ability to reach their students. These changes help the faculty escape measuring attendance, a poor proxy for student engagement. COVID-19 teaching provided exposure to a host of tools to support and track student participation and understanding. Faculty used disruption to experiment and discover valuable tools and techniques. Below are two pandemic-introduced innovative teaching adaptations discussed.

Collaborative Sense Technologies

COVID-19 has mandated digital collaboration and coordination rich in student and faculty engagement across student groups using social settings technology. Using collaborative documents, discussion boards, slides, notes, whiteboards, and other file types provides a way for collaborative notetaking and offers students and instructors a view of the process and output of all groups involved in an educational activity. Digital collaborative technologies involve connecting students, teachers, and each other, within and across groups. Formulating, sharing, and receiving feedback on responses benefits all students by enhancing the reciprocation of ideas and perspective to the given prompt, helping students develop critical thinking skills through careful peer review and analysis, and immediate feedback from expert instructors. Retaining these "mixed learning" practices and additional post-pandemic affordances is worth moving to the next normal.

Digital breakout rooms for co-learning

During COVID-19 teaching, breakout rooms provided fertile environments for collaborative learning, offering opportunities to engage students.

At the beginning of a class, breakout room activities stimulate prior knowledge of students: instructors can ask students to talk to others in their breakout room and raise a question or concern about the upcoming topic of the day. Breakout sessions provide meaning-making avenues in the middle of a class: instructors can assign a problem to solve, a case study to summarise, a situation to analyze, a decision to criticize, or any other number of synergistic activities to further understand students. After class, breakout rooms instigate students to refine main ideas and identify confusion points. While skillful use of breakout sessions promotes engagement and learning, the breakout room environment offers the added benefit of digital tools (e.g., whiteboards, chat, screen sharing, internet searching). Even in socially distant classrooms, students easily donate headphones and work with all the tools that breakout rooms provide. In addition, instructors can pop in and out of the rooms, answer questions, and feel the way students think. This richer, digital learning environment grants more meaningful activities, leading to deeper learning. In the next normal, this combination of interpersonal and digital collaboration will likely continue to advance learning.

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