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Stimulate continuous engagement with Interactive Document | FeedbackFruits tips

Dan Hasan
|
October 28, 2022

Reading assignments are, in many disciplines, a fundamental element of any education program: after all, self-study, rather than lectures, often makes up the majority of course hours. But whereas lectures enjoy the benefit of a group dynamic, working from home removes the learning community from the learning experience. This can lead to poorer motivation, less engagement, and overall, a passive encounter with the study materials, if at all.

Some teachers are finding ways to maintain connectivity with learning, even outside the classroom. And most of these ways are nothing new - chat groups, social media, and other tools and technologies have become so integrated into most course designs that they are the rule rather than exception. However, these myriad external tools deny instructors visibility on learning, data on progress and performance, and ultimately, the power to guide learners on a more personal level. The limited time of the instructors should not be used moderating WhatsApp or Facebook chats, and it can not be used individually addressing every question that each student may have. 

So is there a one-size-fits-all-solution to having every student engaged 100% of the time with every activity? Not that we know of. But there is Interactive Document, used by instructors to stimulate active participation with reading materials. No wonder it’s a favorite from Texas A&M to Monash for flipping the classroom. This article will share 5 best practices for setting up Interactive Document which you can apply in your course design directly.

About FeedbackFruits Tips series

Our team started this series with the hope of helping educators make the best out of our tools and create engaging, meaningful learning experiences.

1. Make use of multimedia content

Giving instructions, posing questions, and guiding answers are all everyday tasks on many teachers’ lists. But for online and hybrid course design, these don’t have to be limited to text prompts, nor do they have to be linked from external hosts and websites behind logins and paywalls. There’s enough research out there suggesting multiple forms of expression and representation of content helps make it accessible for a larger, and more diverse cohort of students.

With ‘add items’, (updated from its predecessor ‘attach file’ since v2.81 of the toolsuite), you can record audio or video, as well as attaching existing multimedia, to give your instructions more depth. And it’s not just instructions, but also adding questions or replying to student discussions, that you’ll be able to use multimedia to your advantage when using FeedbackFruits tools.

 

Attach multimedia files to the instructions in FeedbackFruits
Add multimedia files to activity instructions

2. Watch your timing

A little extra encouragement can sometimes go a long way toward ensuring that students complete work on time. And for longer assignments which require multiple iterative steps (such as writing then reviewing drafts before a final paper), having a structured way of working is essential for balancing out the workload over the time allowed. But the reality is that deadlines pose difficulties for some students, no matter how many extra reminders are left in every possible place. 

Using the ‘Time window’ functionality, you can make explicit when students start and stop having access to an activity, either by automatically setting a date, or by manually choosing yourself . And remember that the upcoming deadlines you’ve set will generate reminder notifications which are automatically sent to students, both in-activity and via-email. So no more excuses! (for the most part)

Adjust time window for activities in FeedbackFruits
Adjust time window for activities in FeedbackFruits

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3. Break up content into bite-size chunks

Longer, and complex readings, require a lot of attention from students. As mentioned earlier, your lack of visibility on these sorts of tasks make it difficult to judge performance and progress with reading activities, often up until class discussions or final submissions where the content is applied. There are also cases where you don’t necessarily want students to just quickly skim through a text, but instead go though section by section, and point  out things in a particular order. In both of these situations, it can be useful to block off text sections and ensure learners read in the order you wish.

In Interactive Study Materials, you can highlight any section of the document and ‘require participants to answer before continuing in the document’. And don’t forget, you can choose which questions to enable this for, so posing optional questions just to get the brain juices flowing is also a possibility!

Make the questions required in Interactive Document
Make the questions required in Interactive Document

4. Allow anonymous answers

Biases are inherent, and affect our decision-making capacities. If a group of students working on a problem are best buddies, or sworn enemies, it will clearly have an impact on the learning environment. In practice, things aren’t usually that extreme, but more and more course designs are seeing the importance of creating a safe space for student interaction. One thing this can mean is an anonymised environment for commenting.

By enabling anonymous replies in discussion threads, you can encourage students to share their true thoughts, beliefs, and opinions, without fear of reprisal from peers, and in an equal playing field. This way, students can see the comments and replies of their peers as normal, but instead of seeing their real name attached, these are replaced with fruity pseudonyms. Just remember, the teacher can always see the students’ real names in all activities regardless of anonymity settings.

5. Make space for student-centered learning

The essence of flipping the classroom is the cultivation of student-led discussions, self-regulating learners who will ask timely and incisive questions, and preparing for classes which dive deeper into points raised by students before actually coming to the class in question. Where students are motivated to pose their own, and answer each other’s questions, space is created for these student-centered discussions to really thrive.

So as well as adding your own questions to materials, why not let students create their own question cards, and even see each other’s answers to these questions? Where these discussions are transparent and accessible, it's much easier for all students to feel they are on the same page, or at the least, achieving the same minimum level of understanding on a topic. Leaving you, the instructor, more insight into who might need more assistance, and conversely, who is already excelling in any given exercise.

Configure student contribution to the study materials
Configure student contribution to the study materials

Quality online teaching and learning

An ebook that helps you design meaningful learning experiences in any course modality
DOWNLOAD NOW

Conclusion

There are countless more ways in which Interactive Document can save teachers’ time, simplify course design, provide transparency and insights, and foster self-regulation in learners. Check out our use cases for more, and see how instructors from around the globe have made learning materials more engaging, and heightened the chances for student success.

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