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Enhancing student engagement in online learning at Texas Tech University

Nhi Nguyen
|
November 4, 2022
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Context

About the institution

Texas Tech University prides itself on being a major comprehensive research university that retains the sense of a smaller liberal arts institution, and committed to enhancing the cultural and economic development of the state, nation, and world. 

About the instructor

Dr. Justin R Louder serves as associate vice provost for Texas Tech University eLearning & Academic Partnerships. Dr. Louder is the primary consultant for college and department leaders on the development of new, high-demand eLearning degree and certificate proposals. He also oversees Blackboard support and instructional design, as well as compliance and regulation for online and regional site programs.

Course information

  • Name: English 1301 and 1302; Kinesiology and exercise physiology
  • Size: 3500 students
  • Course design: Online and blended
  • LMS: Blackboard

Constructive alignment

Learning objectives

The motivation: seeking a solution to facilitate effective peer feedback in online learning

Texas Tech University’s fall semester kickoff in 2020 was like none that preceded it, as the pandemic caused traditional in-class teaching to suddenly be moved entirely online. This major change presented faculties such as the English department with a challenge: to ensure an active learning environment in online settings, with effective feedback, meaningful interaction, and continuous engagement. 

In the ‘normal’ year, students of the English 1301 and 1302 courses would take part in peer assessment for each of their writing assignments; exchanging written reports with their peers and providing comments and feedback. Coordinating efficient peer feedback back among all 3,500 students was already difficult in the face-to-face setting; therefore, a different approach was needed to make that possible online.That’s why the faculty reached out to Dr. Louder, who proposed integrating the FeedbackFruits tools to get peer assessment up and running once more.

Learning activities

The implementation: FeedbackFruits tools to facilitate peer assessment, engagement and interaction

Under Dr. Louder’s instructions, the English department integrated several FeedbackFruits tools namely Peer Review, Interactive Video, and Interactive Audio into Blackboard.

Thanks to the seamless integration, Instructors were able to successfully design and facilitate online peer feedback activities. For each course unit, they used FeedbackFruits Peer review to set up 6-8 peer review activities, in which students peer reviewed each other’s assignments and instructors also provided comments. Due to the big class size of 3500, the faculty divided students into groups to work on different projects. This process was also supported by the Peer Review tool.

Furthermore, using the data overview feature, the faculty was able to gain insights into students’ performance to make proper adjustments to the course. According to Dr. Louder: 

“They [the faculty] were able to talk to students that might not be as active as others... They were also able to manage and look at how students look at feedback, interacted with others, then integrated any comments or changes.”  

Assessment of learning outcomes

Figure 1. FeedbackFruits Peer Review presents over of students’ performance during the peer feedback activities

Besides the two English courses, FeedbackFruits continued to prove effective when being adopted in other online modules at Texas Tech: the Kinesiology and exercise physiology classes. These courses were organized in either online or blended forms, with inclusion of peer assessment activities to foster “self-driven learning” and critical thinking. To facilitate these elements, Peer Review, Interactive Audio and Video were utilized.

With Peer Review, instructors issued two learning activities throughout, which are:

1. a pre-class activity in which students reviewed, and left comments on the study materials

2. a peer-based discussion where students exchanged thoughts and questions during the lectures. These subjects were then addressed by instructors after the classes. 

At the same time, Interactive Audio and Video tools were used to help students learn medical terminology. That is, instructors uploaded short videos explaining medical concepts, with added in-line questions to check students’ understanding. This learning design allows for students’ active participation, and formative assessment.

Read more: 

- How to set up Peer Review activity 

- How to set Interactive Video and Audio activity 

Notable outcomes

Figure 2. An activity designed using Interactive Video

The outcome: An online learning experience which is engaging, interactive, and active

The faculty loved the Peer Review, Annotation tools, and Interactive Video.

Remarked Dr. Louder about the adoption of FeedbackFruits tools. As Texas Tech University has aimed to promote feedback, interaction, and active learning in their online/hybrid classes, FeedbackFruits proves to be effective in helping faculties realize these goals. 

According to Dr. Louder, using FeedbackFruits tools “has saved the faculty members a huge amount of time” thanks to the smooth LMS integration, and user-friendly interface. 

Furthermore, instructors were able to foster collaborative learning in online classes by using the tools. 

When we did the pivot back in the spring, we were concerned about how they would be able to have that collaboration in the online world. By using online tools, they were able to foster this. - Dr. Louder

Data analytics is also the element much appreciated by faculties when mentioning FeedbackFruits tools. By seeing students’ progress and performance, instructors can identify underperforming students, make adjustments, and manage student engagement. 

Above all, the Texas Tech team managed to foster an active learning environment where students could engage in meaningful interactions and become active learners. 

Gone are the days when students were okay with just getting a grade. They want feedback and opportunities to learn from mistakes and what they are doing… Gone are the days of sage on the stage when faculties are imparting knowledge to the students.

Dr. Louder emphasized the importance of active learning in higher education. 

To learn more about Texas Tech University’s success story, visit Dr. Louder’s presentation at inspirEd 2021. 

FeedbackFruits are also helping many other faculties elevate their course design, explore more success stories shared by expert instructors.

Possible variation

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