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How Interactive Study Materials improved students' engagement and interactivity at Utrecht University

Dan Hasan
August 6, 2021
Class Size
140
Instructor Workload
Learner Workload

Context

Course name: Communication, Emotion, and Persuasiveness (elective course for 2nd year BA students), taught in Dutch

Course structure:

  • 10 weeks
  • Students split between 6 classes of 20–25 to learn how to recognise and communicate with persuasive language.
  • At the end of the course, students write a persuasive text and explain their stylistic choices.

How was Interactive Study Materials used?

  • The instructor used interactive study materials to familiarise students with the course content: pre-recorded lectures
  • Interactive Video: upload lectures
  • Interactive Document: upload written materials
  • These tools afforded students with more chance for guidance and clarification over the duration of the course.

Constructive alignment

Learning objectives

  • Students should be able to know about important theories in understanding text and how people can be persuaded.
  • Students should be able to understand how to carry out research and different methodologies, and how to interpret and analyse the results.
  • Students are able to reflect on various research methods, and identify areas for improvement.

Learning activities

Step 1: Study materials preparation

  • In place of a weekly lecture, the instructor recorded several short clips (four to five 12-minute clips) covering various topics on the syllabus, and assigned these as weekly preparation.
  • The clips were uploaded into Interactive Video and labelled with a brief description and comments, which demarcated subtopics.
  • In addition, the instructor prepared and uploaded two to three articles on Interactive Document.

Step 2: Interaction with the study materials

  • Students were encouraged to leave their own comments and questions on the videos if any further explanation was required. 

  • Within Interactive Document, the comment feature was used to elaborate on potentially difficult or salient areas, for example providing extra information on graphs or tables. Open questions were also added to guide students’ thinking along the intended learning trajectory. Again, students left comments and questions of their own, and were able to answer each other’s queries inside of the document.

Learning activities based on the Bloom taxonomy are mainly at the level of:

Understanding

domain knowledge in recorded lectures and assigned articles

Applying and Analyzing

academic texts and peer contributions

Creating

a persuasive text based on materials covered in the course

Assessment of learning outcomes

  • In this course, the tools were used formatively rather than for graded assignments. However, a resit for the final exam was not permitted for students who hadn’t participated in the FeedbackFruits activities.

Notable outcomes

  • Interactive Study Materials give students a chance to engage, and ask for clarification with any and every part of uploaded material. “Students feel that classes are more interactive when they give input in these ways."
  • The downloadable student activity overview data was used to check how students had answered questions, whether they had done their homework on time, and if they had prepared sufficiently for the exam. ”We were very happy with the excel file... now we can have oversight of students’ encounter with the material.”
  • The instructor noted an overall increase in participation and performance after using Interactive Study Materials.
  • At the same time, “frustration levels” went down - students no longer needed to wait until class to discuss something that was unclear in the material, as this could be asked immediately within the tool, to the whole class.
Instructor
I’m really grateful for the tools that are available. [Before the pandemic], they made teaching better, and now they’re making teaching possible. Me and my colleagues noted that we might start using this even when we go back to offline.
I’m really grateful for the tools that are available. [Before the pandemic], they made teaching better, and now they’re making teaching possible. Me and my colleagues noted that we might start using this even when we go back to offline.

The role of the instructor

  • Created a brief mention in the course manual about how FeedbackFruits would be used, and the instructor also created an “Announcement” (notice) in the LMS in the first week.
  • Instead of a lecture in week 1, students can join an online session to ask questions and get familiar with the overall course structure and requirements.
  • Inside the Interactive Study Materials tools, detailed instructions were given so that students knew what was expected of them, and inside of what timeframe.
  • A small change was made to the format from the second week onwards after student feedback - “locked” questions were removed from the Interactive Document after initially having been included.
  • The instructor checked the activity multiple times per week, maintaining a consistent and holistic view of student activity throughout the course.

Added value of technology

  • Students noted that the way the tools were used to make the class interactive made them feel much more involved, “It felt like we were back in an actual class”.

  • Students could make their needs known directly to the instructor and to each other, by commenting directly on parts of the document.
  • Before integrating the tools, students lacked time to process lectures and come up with substantial questions in time, but with this asynchronous lecture/video-clip setup, they had more time to watch, re-watch and ask questions.

Possible variation

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