I know that classroom mobile phone policies can be a fraught subject. Student distraction is a real concern, and handheld technology gives students a tool that introduces a constant stream of outside input (social media, news alerts, games) that often seem far more interesting than the class material or activities. One way to combat this is to make the phones or devices part of the learning experience.
During the 2016–17 academic year, the Mobile Learning Initiative (MoLI) conducted a pilot of Poll Everywhere as a classroom response system. Poll Everywhere is a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) clicker system used primarily to poll or quiz students in a face to face classroom. Poll Everywhere allows students to answer questions in class on their personal device (phone, tablet, or laptop) and visualizes their responses in real time. It’s an easy way to engage students, build more interaction into your teaching, and gauge student understanding. It’s also a great tool to use for “fun” in the classroom, from a quick icebreaker to a complex trivia competition.
Getting good feedback from students can be a challenge. Gone are the days where someone from the academic department came into your class and distributed paper course evaluations to every student. Response rates for online course evaluations are abysmal, and the students who respond usually represent the extremes—they either tend to be really happy with the course or decidedly unhappy. So what to do?
Recently the college I support conducted two focus groups for our online students. I didn’t facilitate the focus groups; I have to give credit here to our great online operations team and the researchers who support the college Teaching, Learning and Assessment committee. In these focus groups, our adult students were asked “If you had the opportunity to design your ideal online course experience, what are the features you would include?”
So what did they tell us?
DePaul’s School for New Learning has an annual initiative called the Month of Writing (MOW) every October. The initiative is loosely based on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and challenges the school’s students, faculty, and staff to write as many words as possible during the month.
This year I worked with a faculty member developing an online course designed to coincide with the MOW, where one course objective is to complete 25,000 words of a designated writing project by the end of the five week course. The emphasis here is on the writing process—on quantity over quality—to get students over the idea that every piece of writing must be perfect, and just start writing.