Skip to main content Skip to main content

Online student-engagement tools for success

Psychology Professor Lisa Hagan employs video conferencing to address isolation.

By Siet Wright

September 23, 2019

Students sitting at picnic table studying and working on laptops.Lisa Hagan, Ph.D., professor of psychology and a 2019 Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence Award winner, has taught at Metropolitan State University of Denver for 15 years and has picked up some helpful skills along the way.

When Hagan began teaching online classes, she wanted to create a digital environment similar to face-to-face classes by directly addressing some of the isolating and alienating aspects of the online education experience. Research shows that distance learners are at a higher risk of attrition than on-campus students (Morris & Finnegan, 2006). In addition, distance learners can struggle with isolation and anxiety (Ohrablo, 2016).

Hagan believes connecting students with the professor and with their peers is of the utmost importance for engagement and retention. This is challenging in the digital classroom, however, as students are in different places geographically.

One of the ways Hagan meets her students where they are is by using free video-conferencing software to host meetings online. Through video-conferencing apps such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, she offers optional exam reviews and discussions, which allow students to join in the chat or video or just listen via audio. As Blackboard discussions tend to be asynchronous, these synchronistic discussions can go a long way toward engaging students in content and learning objectives and ensure that they understand and can apply theories. Allowing students the option to engage with professors and classmates also empowers them to be proactive in their education.

“I think it gives us a better understanding of what to expect for the course in real time instead of having to wait for emails,” said social-work student Maylynn Marlow, who has benefited from the use of video conferencing in online classes. “It also helps students doing online classes to get a chance to connect with (their) professor and peers.”

Although online conferencing increases Hagan’s workload, she thinks this digital approach is what teaching will look like in the future.

“I love to have one-on-one conversations with students, but I may not always have the time to spend with them. Video conferencing allows for that time due to its mobility,” she said.

She also can see more educators adopting these methods to better reach students in face-to-face, hybrid and online classes.

“In the future, teachers will use social media, virtual office hours and other online mediums as a way to connect with their students because people aren’t always on campus but they are always online,” she said. “It’s happening now, whether we go there or not.”

Topics: Academics, Best practices, Retention, Student Success

Edit this page