Sign up

Have some pie!

Lowering barriers for student engagement: our approach to technology is the key

Any academic you speak to will strive for all students to engage with the learning process, but it’s a challenge increasingly difficult to achieve.

Photo: pexels

"There were new ways of communicating with other students and with the lecturer"

With the added pressures and challenges of the pandemic, students were put out of their comfort zone and found the digital divide a real barrier to their learning and engagement with the wider community.

While technology can become one of those barriers to engagement, academics across the UK are using collaborative annotation platforms to help break down those walls. These solutions are fairly new to the market but are already seeing students more tuned in than ever, matched with open channels of communication and an inclusive environment.

Academics told us that students struggle most with fear and anxiety from speaking out in a public space. For many, the pandemic and a switch to online learning made this much easier.

There were new ways of communicating with other students and with the lecturer. Some students enjoyed the use of the online chat within video call lectures, while more confident students continued to ‘unmute’ to share their views.

Wendy Garnham, National Teaching fellow and director of Student Experience (Foundation Years) at the University of Sussex told us, “To lower emotional barriers for students in engaging with both course materials and in taught sessions, I used Talis Elevate and Zoom.

“To help students develop confidence in raising questions about sections of the readings they didn’t understand or in contributing to discussions around the content, Talis Elevate proved invaluable.”

Talis Elevate is a collaborative annotation platform that enables students to highlight sections of text, an image or timestamp in a video and add a class comment, question or a personal note.

“Being able to do this anonymously strips away the anxiety that often accompanies active participation and made the process of engagement non-threatening,” Garnham added.

“In lectures, the use of Zoom enabled conversations around content to be continued using the chat function. Informal chatter with students before the lecture started helped to create an atmosphere where students felt more comfortable and relaxed, seeing this as an opportunity for us to work together to explore and critically analyse a subject area.

“In both cases, the digital tools helped to firmly implant a social element into the experience, emphasising to students the supportive and collaborative nature of learning.”

“Technologies in teaching can help overcome barriers but need to enhance pedagogy, not replace it”

We were keen to learn more from academics in the higher education community about the challenges students were faced with, and the tactics they were using to support them and break down these barriers. At a recent event, Teach Learn Collaborate Repeat, we took the opportunity to ask academics directly about the perceived barriers to entry for student engagement. The responses fell into four categories: Emotional, Physical, Educational and Technological.

A range of academics, from lecturers to heads of Teaching and Learning shared what they’d perceived over the past 18 months. We also asked them which tactics they’d adopted in order to better support students.

Answers ranged from teaching with Lego to allowing students to contribute anonymously. The overwhelming response tells us that creating environments where students can engage in different ways, collaborate with peers, and develop a sense of agency in their learning is critical to student success. Technologies in teaching can help overcome barriers but need to enhance pedagogy, not replace it.

You can find out more about this session by downloading the guide “How Can We Lower Barriers to Entry for Students to Engage?”

In it, you can find out what makes for good student engagement, how this has been challenged during the pandemic. You’ll also find suggestions from academics about how they’re helping students overcome barriers and find their optimum way to engage with peers and the course material.

Processed with Snapseed.

About the author: This is a sponsored post from Matt East, Education Lead at Talis.

Related articles

Still looking? Find by category:

Add your comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer: All user contributions posted on this site are those of the user ONLY and NOT those of The PIE Ltd or its associated trademarks, websites and services. The PIE Ltd does not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or agree with any comments, opinions or statements or other content provided by users.

To receive The PIE Weekly with our top stories and insights, and other updates from us, please