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Hey everyone! My name is Dr. Caitlin Runne-Janczy; I’m the Chief Academic Officer at Science Interactive, which means I lead the team that creates and curates our curriculum. I work with a team of highly qualified scientists and creators to make sure that our content is engaging, accurate and most of all, educational! It can be hard to keep students focused when they learn from home, and science classes can be particularly challenging from a distance—which is where we come in!
I’ve worked here for seven years—even before we were known as Science Interactive—and in all that time I’ve picked up a few tricks on keeping students engaged. Here are some of the most important!
1 – Build a community!
Utilize forums on your Learning Management System (or LMS for short, like Canvas or Blackboard) to allow students to chat and collaborate. For students performing labs online, they can share interesting results or insights, as well as troubleshoot together!
Many faculty have virtual office hours, but consider hosting a virtual study hall or recitation – with cameras on! Like the forums, this will allow students to work together, get to know one another, and put faces to names.
2 – Keep it creative!
Diversify how you present your curriculum! Go beyond text and images – videos, interactives, and hands-on activities can all help students engage with the course content. Video lectures and hands on activities (like our take-home lab kits) work wonders in keeping students sharp and aware while studying hard topics.
3 – Keep it snappy!
Long recorded lectures and text can cause students to experience cognitive overload, causing them to get distracted and disengage. Keep the content concise and to the point to make sure students can meet their key learning objectives. Brevity is key! Students have a lot of information thrown their way on a daily basis; despite reading less physical books than they used to, students are constantly being exposed to more information now than they ever used to be.
This doesn’t mean you have to rewrite all of your lessons—some topics require a substantial amount of detail to truly cover!
Every instructor has their own secret way of keeping students engaged, but for first time online instructors, it can be an adjustment! These are just a few suggestions to help keep things engaging for your students, and to allow your class to feel connected despite the distance! Our kits make it a little easier, so feel free to contact us with any questions. Best of luck with the rest of the semester!
Dr. Caitlin Runne-Janczy, PhD, is the Chief Academic Officer at Science Interactive, where she leads SI’s team in developing curriculum for students nationwide. After receiving her PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Iowa, Runne-Janczy worked as a freelance editor at Cactus Global, assisting scientists as they translated their journals to English, before starting at Science Interactive’s predecessor, eScience Labs. She has been with Science Interactive Group for more than 7 years as a result.