Finding engaging activities for students when teaching online.
Helen Hewertson, Lecturer
School of Humanities, Languages and Global Studies
The main challenge faced when teaching online is how to create the engaging classroom atmosphere and check how students are progressing with the content. Normally, this is done through discussion groups and wandering around the different groups – checking the students’ knowledge by asking questions and listening to their discussions. This is no longer possible in the same way. Since during lockdown, we did not have breakout rooms in Teams, so other ways of engaging students and checking their knowledge were implemented. Students were generally quite nervous about discussing things online and hardly anyone volunteered to get on the microphone. One way I found to engage the students and check their knowledge, was by using Kahoot!
Kahoot Is an interactive quiz-based platform. It has two main elements, ‘Teach’ and ‘Assign’. The Teach mode is a live quiz where the questions and potential answers appear on the website or lecture screen. With this option it is better to have two devices – as with when you submit your answers to the questions, only the colour coded shapes that relate to the answers are visible on the website or lecture screen. This section is timed, and you have a limited amount of time to submit your answer before it moves on to the next question. This can be fun for pub quizzes, and end of lecture consolidation and engagement. It has a competitive element and showcases the top students at the end of each question. It has a podium for first, second and third place students. This generally works best in a lecture theatre, where students have their mobile devices with them. When students are learning online from home, you cannot guarantee they will have two devices.
The Assign option only needs one device, and you can adjust whether or not it is timed. The students can work through it at their own pace. This is much better for asynchronous learning – but since it can have a timed element, you can still set it to be completed within a lecture or seminar slot. It gives students instant feedback as to whether the answer they entered was correct. It does not show you at the end of each question who is the top scorer, but it does have a podium at the end to show you who the top scorers were overall. If utilising online learning, this might be a better option. This gives both the students who were present at the seminar or lecture a chance to participate and check their knowledge, but it also does not leave out the students who are unable to access the learning at that time. We need to be mindful that not everyone can access learning at the time it is presented. So, recording lectures and having interactive elements like this, enables them to still participate in a learning community. The main drawback is that the free version only allows up to 50 participants at a time. This is not a problem for small classes, but if you have large classes you might want to set up four or five different repetitions of the same quiz, so everyone can participate. These for example could be linked to seminar groups, instead of the whole lecture group.
The students generally liked this and found it fun, but we did have issues when using the Teach live option – as some students didn’t have two devices, and some were initially confused about which colour to press. It would have made it easier had the answers actually been on the coloured shapes that you need to press to respond. So, this was an accessibility issue. The next time we used the assign option. This works much better for accessibility but did not have the same feel of immediacy and competition that the Teach option has. If using it at the end of the session to evaluate learning, do not have too many questions, as the students can get bored and not participate in the whole quiz. Five or six questions is probably enough.
I have also used this in some staff development activities. This has proved quite popular, and some feedback can be found below:
- “I can definitely see ways to use it.”
- “A bit frustrating switching focus between screens.”
- “Difficult without a double screen – feel disadvantaged.”
- “I have found most students like Kahoot – they want one every week.”
- “I used it last year in class and the students loved it. Brilliant session.”
- “Ranking winners could be a negative experience for others, but a good alternative way of quizzing.”
In the end, it is about what works for you and your students. You might find other engagement activities more effective. As you can see from the feedback above, some groups loved it and others found it frustrating. Other platforms staff have used for similar purposes have been Microsoft Forms and Mentimeter. It is worth having a look around and trying out different engagement activities and seeing what works best for your group.
Patricia A. Baszuk & Michele L. Heath (2020) Using Kahoot! to increase exam scores and engagement, Journal of Education for Business, DOI: 10.1080/08832323.2019.1707752