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Engage the Next 10%
Students Comment and Ask Questions Online 
Before Class Meetings (Online or Face-to-Face)
Frugal Innovations for Student Engagement 

Increase the frequency and effectiveness of students' preparation for class meetings (in a classroom or online) without requiring much additional faculty time.  

Advice (Briefest Summary)  
Require each student to submit a question or thoughtful comment about an assignment in advance of the class meeting.  
Choose technology convenient for the teacher and most students.  
The submission technology and deadline should enable the teacher to collect and use the student's contributions easily to adjust part of the next class session. 

Recommendations                Help with First Steps            Technology Options          


  • Requirement
    Require each student to submit a question or comment about the preparatory assignment prior to the class meeting.  
    NOTE1 The assignment could reflect the recommendations offered in "Preview for Class".
    NOTE2  Sample task descriptions from a faculty member at Georgetown University Sept. 15, 2010 - using Blackboard discussion board:
    "Post a substantive comment, written in full sentences, where possible citing page numbers in the text."
    "Respond to one another's comments and ask questions"
    "This week we had a lot of new vocabulary, so I had students post what they thought were the key terms. I told them I will add a little to the composite list and then select some of these items as IDs on the midterm."
  • Deadline
    Set a deadline that is both reasonable for students and allows the teacher enough time to review their contributions - perhaps early on the morning of the class meeting or late the night before.
    • NOTE3  Also from same faculty member as NOTE2 above:  "'Prime the pump,' by closing the on-line discussion on the day of class, printing out everything, highlighting a few comments, and bringing the result to class. This is logistically difficult with more than 20 students."
  • Identify Most Important Questions/Comments
    Encourage students to indicate which of the questions submitted by an earlier deadline they would most like you to answer during or after the class meeting.   Same for indicating preferences about which comments teacher should consider.

  • Explain Evaluation
    Explain to the students how the quality (and quantity?) of their questions or comments will be evaluated and influence their grades in this course - perhaps as part of their "class participation."

  • Use Student Contributions
    During the class meeting, the teacher should make an explicit reference to one of the student's questions or to a pattern that the teacher perceived when reviewing all contributions.  This confirms to the students that the teacher pays attention to their preparatory work and that it can usefully influence what happens in class meetings.  

Help with First Steps

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Paper Bookmark
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Small Group Option
Guidelines & suggested small group activities

Technology Options

Use tools that permit students to submit their own questions online and view the questions already submitted by their classmates.   

Use tools that enable the teacher to collect and use the student's contributions easily to adjust part of the next class session. 

Make it easy and convenient for t
he students to 
  • provide their questions
  • indicate their preferences 

Make it easy and covenient for the teacher to 
  • see which of the questions or comments are indicated as important by most students prior to the class meeting 
  • print or display the students' contributions for easy reference shortly before, DURING, or after the class meeting.
Use an online tool like Google Moderator, GetSatisfaction, .... or even a "traditional" threaded discussion board available in your institution's Learning Management System (e.g., Blackboard, Angel, Moodle, ...)  

  • REQUEST:   Like an extra credit assignment...

What low-threshold tools would be most effective for this purpose? 
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