Students leave their courses or quit university for many reasons. Some of these reasons may include a lack of belonging, difficulty with the subject matter, and or problems communicating learning needs. Communication with first-year students is particularly vital. It is central to their developing community, feeling part of the university culture and seeking support at crucial assessment points.
This presentation offers participants a brief overview around HE trends in classroom communication technology. We will demonstrate two applications, the first is a polling app called menti.com and the second is Slack. Both are online real-time mobile communications tools that may go some way to addressing issues of retention, attention, engagement and student satisfaction. There will be some discussion of their merits and pitfalls of these apps. The results of a small internally funded research project using Slack will also be presented.
Session content: evaluation and reflection
1: The session will begin with an overview of selected communication technologies currently used in HE. The results of some of these implementations will be discussed.
2: Introducing Menti and Slack applications
3: Examines a small research study that focused on the impact of Slack as a communication tool within a core computer science module at our University. The evaluation was carried out using a simple survey. This project aims to look at both staff and student views on communication in and outside of the classroom. Some of the evidence so far includes:
Staff: Highlighting potential issues or struggling students early on including time efficiencies and fewer email issues. Students: Increased participation and engagement through building stronger communities of practice. University: Increased student satisfaction, achievement and retention for the module and course. Future: Ability to roll out this approach to other modules in Computing (as appropriate), where communication and community are central to learning strategies.
The use of these technologies also appears to support the mastery of ‘threshold’ concepts. A threshold concept is one that is, in computer programming that requires complex cognitive ability. Our team has used Slack to create ‘channels’ around several threshold concepts to allow focus. Channels enable small asynchronous discussion groups to form to extend and support students who may be struggling or for those who are demonstrating advanced skills.
This project demonstrates that using asynchronous communication tools may enhance both the experience of the student and the lecturing staff. The class, although split into four groups, worked together by supporting each other and building an improved community, student experience and sense of engagement.
Pacansky-Brock, M.: Best practices for teaching with emerging technologies. (2012).
Missildine, K., Fountain, R., Summers, L., Gosselin, K.: Flipping the Classroom to Improve Student Performance and Satisfaction. J. Nurs. Educ. 52, 597-599 (2013).
Thomas, L. et al., 2017. Supporting student success: strategies for institutional change What Works? Student Retention & Success programme Final Report. Available at: https://www.phf.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Full-report-Final.pdf [Accessed March 26, 2018].
Zhang, X. et al., 2017. Learning analytics in collaborative learning supported by Slack: From the perspective of engagement. Computers in Human Behavior. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563217304788 [Accessed March 25, 2018].
Resources for participants
The Slack App
Supporting student success: strategies for institutional change What Works? Student Retention & Success programme