Published: Feb. 22, 2012

During the Teaching with Technology seminar series, Tim Wadsworth, an Associate Professor in CU’s department of Sociology, analyzed the effectiveness of his online courses in his presentation. The biggest challenge Dr. Wadsworth encountered was to get students engaged, especially during the summer, so he needed to find a solution to this problem.

Thinking about how to encourage student participation in an online course, Wadsworth employed digital quizzes to prompt the class to spend more time with the readings. To push students to spend more time with the course materials, online quizzes were employed in the class with a thorough series of questions to ensure that his pupils read all the course material.  Wadsworth designed the questions so that it required his students to remain actively engaged with the course materials.

For class assignments, Wadsworth decided to give several options to his students, which included traditional papers or, videos, or applying other aspects of technology to their projects. The individuals who opted to create a video posted their films to YouTube or Vimeo for both the class and the world at large to view. The only issue Wadsworth faced was how to be objective and fair when grading a video versus a standard research paper. Although this assignment proved to possess some problems, such as the difficulty with grading, it largely benefited the students and the classroom as a whole as it led to more creative projects and more participation in discussions. Wadsworth discovered that with these projects, more students failed, but also more received As, meaning his approach engaged the class at a deeper level. Also it became clear through these assignments that students took more risks, resulting in more creativity and thus better projects. Lastly, through these homework assignments, Wadsworth found that class discussions became more thorough and dynamic as students possessed a better understanding of the course materials.

As the issue of student engagement is always a consideration for professors across the world, technology needs to be effectively leveraged to provide a better classroom and learning experience. Wadsworth has discovered some methods to improve participation in his online sociology courses, but he must continually evaluate and improve on these approaches as technology is constantly changing. Through incorporating some simple tools like digital quizzes and technology-oriented assignments, Wadsworth created a more inclusive as well as effective course where students truly learned the material.