The evolution of student engagement in a post-COVID era - Key takeaways from LearnSci Webcasts

January 23, 2023

What does student engagement look like in 2023? Lots of teaching has returned to being in-person, but educators are still utilising online resources, recordings and assessments. Not only this, but factors beyond COVID are affecting students’ ability to engage in their learning.

This week’s LearnSci Webcasts episode explores just that. We were joined by Prof. Nicky King from the University of Exeter, and Dr. Louise Newnham from the University of Sussex. They discussed all things student engagement, from how attendance has fluctuated in the last few years, to common pressures that students face which can affect engagement. 

How have you found student engagement to evolve through and since COVID? 

  1. Attendance and engagement with in-person teaching is still unpredictable

Both Nicky and Louise share how attendance has been unexpectedly higher this academic year, in comparison to low levels of engagement when teaching was moving back to being in-person in 2021-2022. 

They highlight the importance of providing a narrative around attendance and resources, so that students know the value of in-person teaching as well as the context surrounding online resources and lecture recordings.

  1. Students’ engagement in learning is affected by a range of factors

Students’ availability and energy to engage in  learning is frequently affected by external pressures and anxieties, such as difficulties with mental health and wellbeing or the challenges of the cost of living crisis. 

Both Nicky and Louise discuss how the pandemic and online learning has affected current students. For example, how the range of assessment types and questions now used can cause confusion, and therefore it’s important to help students understand the context of an assessment and how they might want to prepare. 

“Doing nothing differently this year so far, it seems good, you know, really good attendance for the big modules. So like first year, I think there's a real enthusiasm for being back in person and students getting to know each other.”
Dr. Louise Newnham, University of Sussex
“We need to help students understand the difference between those types of assessment, and the different ways in which they might want to prepare for those assessments”
Prof. Nicky King, University of Exeter

Top Tips for improving student engagement

  1. Implementing interactive resources is key for student engagement

Using digital resources to support and guide students through their learning is invaluable: LabSims and Smart Worksheets can increase confidence and preparedness before labs, and resources like 5HP and Padlet can enhance seminars and lectures, making them more engaging.

  1. Don’t be afraid to bring your whole self to the classroom

It’s important to make sure that in-person teaching is valuable to students. Nicky points out that often they can easily get the content from lecture recordings and resources, but by bringing your authentic self to your teaching, you add another level of interaction. Students get to know you and therefore feel that they can come and talk to you whenever they need.

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Thank you to Nicky and Louise for joining us on this week’s webcast and sharing your experiences with our community. You can view the full webcast recording and the rest of our series on our YouTube channel, and join the conversation on Twitter at #LearnSciWebcasts!

Next time, we’re joined by Dr Jessica Goodman and Dr Sharon Williams to discuss enhancing in-person lab time. Want to be the first to know? Subscribe to our mailing list for the latest updates.

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