Four Activities to Increase Student Engagement in Higher Education
Professors are finding it harder to engage their students in today’s world. When students enroll in higher education institutions, they are looking for a meaningful and contemporary education to prepare them for the ever-changing job market. However, students feel their education is lacking and find it hard to connect and engage in work. Engaging higher education students does not have to be tedious, nor does it require extreme approaches.
Encourage Individuality and Teamwork
Students need time to digest information and mold their understanding of ideas in their way. This does not mean giving students independent reading and asking questions at the end. Not every student that enters a classroom is completely invested in the content or the subject, but these students still need an opportunity to showcase understanding and develop a relationship with the material.
A way to find out the different learning styles and personalities that make up a classroom is to have students take a learning style self-assessment. When taking this approach, students are more self-aware of how they learn, and the professor can find ways to work with strengths while also finding ways to embed activities that develop weaknesses into strengths. Once students know their strengths, they can find ways to use them in group assignments. Additionally, students get a chance to find ways to strengthen their weaknesses in groups because their weakness may be a group member’s strength. Students can improve their weaknesses by as sharing work with other students, taking the time to go back and edit materials, or creating a physical model of an idea.
Chunking is nothing new. Chunking material is breaking information into smaller chunks. Through various studies, the number seven seems to be the magic number. George Miller, a Harvard psychologist in the 1950’s, concluded that humans could not retain more information after seven segments were presented. (Hence why phone numbers — before the necessity of area codes — were only seven numbers long!)
Humans use this technique in everyday life whether or not they realize it. People use this to create shopping lists, daily routines, run errands, etc. Chunking, in education, gives students a chance to internalize concepts, find patterns and connections, and successfully manage ideas and topics. Chunking material allows students to prioritize different components at their own pace. Each piece of an assignment may not take the same amount of time or the same amount of effort. When chunking material, students can also find small successes throughout a larger assignment or find success when conquering massive amounts of information in small bits. Breaking the material down into more manageable pieces reduces stress and increase success rates.
Technology is not going away, nor should it. Previously, instructors utilized archaic information that came from outdated textbooks. Access to literature was contingent on the operating hours of a library. For some that were lucky, external access to digital media came in the form of the Encarta CD Encyclopedia set. However, students now have access to relevant, groundbreaking news and international advancements at a moment’s notice. For example, in February 2018, the world was finally able to see an atom suspended. This specific example would not be found in a textbook. Instead of viewing technology as a distraction and the demise of society, educators should continue to find ways to incorporate its uses in the classroom.
Bring the World to Students
When students can share their experiences outside their classroom, learning becomes more meaningful. The world is now connected through technology. Applications like Skype, Google Maps, and Google Expeditions bring the world to the classroom. Study abroad opportunities also brings the world closer to students. In recent years, there has been an increase in participation in study abroad. Interestingly, there is an increase in student participation in a study abroad that are focused on volunteering or internships without academic credit. Any opportunity, inside or outside the classroom that promotes student learning from firsthand or real-life experiences intensifies learning and engages more senses in the learning process, making the learning more meaningful.
Increasing student engagement in higher education does not need to be taxing. Students in post-secondary institutions are looking to advance their skills while also fine tuning and acquiring new ones to be prepared for life after graduation.