Student engagement is a topic that is widely researched and discussed within librarianship. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us had to reimagine and learn new ways to engage our students virtually. Engagement is even trickier one year into the pandemic as librarians battle Zoom fatigue, blank screens, and ongoing technical and digital divide issues. When I do instruction sessions, I use Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Blackboard Collaborate, which has adapted to its users by increasing its engagement tools. Some of the great features that these platforms have are breakout rooms, reactions (the use of emojis), and the ability to raise your hand. I have learned to use the features already in the virtual platform that I teach in or utilize interactive presentation software.
Recently, I had a research instruction session for undergraduate students. The platform used was Zoom, and the instructor allowed the students to do group work in breakout rooms. As I was given cohost privileges, I could jump in and out of the breakout rooms as though I were in a physical classroom space. It was so great to try out this Zoom feature. I did have the experience of using this feature in Blackboard Collaborate. This feature allowed me to listen and give feedback to the students without doing this in front of the entire class, which made this experience feel intimate. There are so many great break room features that are available to you. Have fun!
Free Interactive Presentation Software
Another way that you can engage your students is by using word clouds, polls, or virtual whiteboards. There is a variety of free interactive presentation software. One is Mentimeter, which gives you the option to ask a question using multiple-choice, word cloud, open-ended, or scales, just to name a few. Recently, I signed up for the free account option and then used Mentimeter’s word cloud generator for one of my virtual classes. I wanted to know how the students use the library. Examples of other interactive presentation software I have seen people use to interact with their audience are Padlet, Jamboard, and MonkeyLearn WordCloud. Using interactive presentation software is a great way to engage your students by checking in with them throughout your lesson. Using these tools is a great way to practice the flipped classroom model.
As an academic librarian, I want to continue learning the latest technology to connect with my students. Also, it is essential to know that I can just get back to the basics by just giving students an opportunity to speak or use the chat box to voice their opinions and thoughts. Learning different virtual engagement tools has been an adventure. Hopefully, you can use this time to explore virtual engagement tools, too!
- Infobase’s Instructional Strategies Toolkit
- Beyond Discussion Boards: Applying Interactive Tools and Assignments for Learning
- 3 Things to Consider Before Investing in Online Learning Tech
- How to Improve Teacher-Student Communication in Virtual Classrooms
- Teaching Remotely? Exploring Creative Ways and Resources to Support Online Learning