Engaging students through online activities

Introduction

Typically, at RMIT in the College of Science, Engineering & Health, student engagement with material happens in groups in the face to face environment, and individually through private study.  However, teaching in an online space requires that we plan for and design opportunities for students to engage with content, each other, and the teaching staff.  The processes we design and the tools that we use need to enable and encourage this range of interactions. This guide is organised based on “the shape of the engagement” – your purpose or goal in the engagement.  The list of tools suitable for each purpose typically starts with various Canvas options (typically the easiest and least demanding options) and ranges outside the institution to various publicly available, free tools to enable engagement.

Why would you use it?

One of the challenges with online teaching and learning is that both students and staff can easily slip into a “transmission” mode. While conveying information to students is a key part of the process, student learning is dependent on an active engagement with content and other people’s interpretation of it. This engagement must be actively designed for in an online context and include a diverse range of activities.

Active engagement also helps to keep students interested in and working on the course, particularly in mostly- or fully-online courses in which students have few or no face-to-face encounters and are rarely on campus. Working professionals or those with extensive responsibilities outside of their studies benefit from frequent communication to remind them about course participation requirements, upcoming assignments and opportunities to engage (such as webinars), and due dates.

What can you use?

If you want to increase the level and quality of engagement in your courses, there are a range of communication structures you might want to consider.

 

I want all my students to receive the same message from me, online. What are my options?
Tool Allows Concerns
RMIT Student Email
  • Can be traced/saved
  • Searchable
  • You can email a course cohort by using the “course code +@list.student.rmit.edu.au” ie: AERO1234@list.student.rmit.edu.au
  • Do you have correct contact details?
Canvas Announcements
  • Can be traced/saved
  • Searchable
  • Students need to turn on notifications in Canvas to receive announcements if they are not logged into Canvas.
Microsoft Teams
  • Can be traced/saved
  • Searchable
  • You need to setup a course Teams site, this is not automatic.
  • Teams is realtively new tool at RMIT students maybe unfamiliar with the use.
I want my students, individually, to communicate with me, online. What are my options?
Tool Allows Concerns
Email
  • Can be traced/saved
  • Searchable
  • Do you have correct contact details?
Microsoft bookings
  • Synchronous individual student consultations
  • Need to setup booking form for students
Canvas Q & A
  • Students on the course to see your responses to commonly asked questions.
  • May be a little distant or misleading.
Skype
  • Easy access to direct calls
  • Need to let students know when you will be available for calls
  • Students need to download the app
I want to host a discussion online. What are my options?
Tool Allows Concerns
Canvas discussion board
  • More space for long discussions
  • Most useful for student learning if discussion topics are well designed and facilitated
  • Lecturer to establish rules of engagement with students, where possible co-design
  • Lecturer/tutor presence and encouraging feedback is key to success
Collaborate Ultra
  • Voice and/webcam for moderator/presenter
  • Voice and/webcam for students
  • Text chat
  • Presenter document and screen sharing
  • Polling
  • Shared whiteboard
  • Recording
  • Lecturer needs to provide students with technical support
  • Lecturer to establish rules of engagement with students, where possible co-design
  • The social aspect is as important as the technical – planning and design is key
    • Collaborate Ultra is mainly used for lecturer-student engagement rather than student-student.
Microsoft Teams
  • Voice and/webcam for moderator/presenter
  • Voice and/webcam for students
  • Text chat
  • Presenter document and screen sharing
  • Polling
  • Shared whiteboard
  • Recording
  • Teams is realtively new tool at RMIT students maybe unfamiliar with the use.
  • Lecturer needs to provide students with technical support
  • Lecturer to establish rules of engagement with students, where possible co-design
  • The social aspect is as important as the technical – planning and design is key
  • Students need to download the app
I want my students to talk to each other in small groups like they might in a tutorial. What are my online options?
Tool Allows Concerns
Canvas discussion board More space for long discussions
  • Most useful for student learning if discussion topics are well designed and facilitated
Shared MsOffice document

Chat (synchronous communications) and comments (asynchronous)

Doc allows students to record chat or work on a shared text.

Collaborate Ultra

Work in breakout groups where students can:

  • Chat synchronously
  • Audio/Video communication
  • Share files
  • Work on problems set by the teaching staff

Teaching staff can move from one room to the next to address any questions students may have.

  • You cannot pre-setup breakout groups in your session.
  • If you want to use breakout groups mulltiple times in a session you need to make sure you do not end the breakout groups, send a message to your students to return to the main room in x minutes. This will keep the breakout rooms setup for the next activity.
Microsoft Teams

Groups of various sizes.

Discussions are searchable.

  • Teams is realtively new tool at RMIT students maybe unfamiliar with the use.
  • If you choose to be part of all the groups, be prepared for lots of notifications, or you may need to turn these off.
  • Students need to download the app.
I want my students to work collaboratively online on a problem, a task or a text. What are my options?
Tool Allows Concerns
Shared MsOffice document

Chat (synchronous communications) and comments (asynchronous)

Doc allows students to record chat or work on a shared text.

  • Students with strong word processing skills will find this intuitive.
  • Requires a clear understanding of how to use a shared document.
Wiki-tool in Canvas Students to collaboratively create
  • Students with strong word processing skills will find this intuitive.
  • Requires a clear understanding of how to use a shared document.
Shared document circulated by email

Students to work offline.

 

  • Version control
  • Students forced to work in series on versions of the text, rather than simultaneously on the same text.
Collaborate Ultra

Work in breakout groups where students can:

  • Chat synchronously
  • Audio/Video communication
  • Share files
  • Work on problems set by the teaching staff

Teaching staff can move from one room to the next to address any questions students may have.

  • You cannot pre-setup breakout groups in your session.
  • If you want to use breakout groups mulltiple times in a session you need to make sure you do not end the breakout groups, send a message to your students to return to the main room in x minutes. This will keep the breakout rooms setup for the next activity.
Microsoft Teams

Students to work offline on shared documents.

Doc allows students to record chat or work on a shared text.

  • Teams is realtively new tool at RMIT students maybe unfamiliar with the use.
  • Students need to download the app.
  • Teaching staff need to setup the channels or give instructions to students to setup a groupwork channel and share with teaching staff member
I want my students to work individually on a problem, a task or a text. What are my options?
Tool Allows Concerns
One drive

Allows students to work, visibly, to their peers on an individual response.

Sharing can be controlled.

Allows work to be seen in progress.

Canvas Groups

Allows students to work, visibly, to their peers on an individual response.

Students can use the, discussion forum, collaborations and share files to their groups.

Microsoft Teams

Allows students to work asynchronously and synchronously

Students can share files

  • Teams is realtively new tool at RMIT students maybe unfamiliar with the use.
  •  Students need to download the app.
  • Teaching staff need to setup the channels or give instructions to students to setup a groupwork channel and share with teaching staff member

If you would like to try out any of the tools suggested please contact us via seh.adg.let@rmit.edu.au