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Author: Jonathan M. Dapra and Marcia A. Wratcher, PhD

Engagement Activities for Blended and Online Learning
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]hances are you have a Learning Management System (LMS) like Blackboard, Canvas, D2L, or Moodle at your school. But how do you use it? The findings from a recent survey by Pomerantz, Brown, and Brooks (2018) of U.S. learning institutions are rather alarming. Despite the integration of an LMS in 99 percent of schools and universities, and adoption by 88 percent of faculty to support online or blended learning environments, the platform is most frequently used for largely administrative tasks. Instructors use a dropbox to collect assignments and often treat the LMS as a file repository for copies of slides used in class and to house the course syllabus. Some will make use of the announcements feature to centralize critical communication. Regardless of the LMS being used, there is a significant opportunity to move students from passive observers to active participants by leveraging tools both inside and outside the system. These engagement activities are particularly effective for informal assessments within blended and online classes. They can be quickly and easily adopted by faculty using a simple set of strategies honed from well-accepted methods and approaches to student-centered learning. Best of all, many tools and techniques for supporting increased engagement are free, easy-to-implement, and do not require a high degree of technical savvy. Informal assessment Traditionally, assessment has been used as a means of evaluating student performance for a grade—you assess students’ knowledge and/or skills and assign a grade based on the percentage of correct answers. This sets up a linear relationship: teach then assess. But assessment can be used as a teaching and learning tool. Learner-centered education integrates assessment into the entire learning process in both informal and formal ways. Such assessments are often brief, ungraded, and most often anonymous, providing useful “real-time” information. Informal assessments can be used at any point during the class: at the beginning to pre-assess, throughout the class to confirm understanding, or when the session ends, as exit tickets for post-assessment. Quick and easy informal assessment activities Some of the most common and easy-to-implement informal assessment activities are polling, word clouds, focused listing, postcards, elevator pitch, and how squared. Use a blank notecard in class and students can drop the card off in a box as they leave class. One could easily implement this through email or a discussion too. This brief exercise will provide you, the facilitator, with a rich assessment of the learning your students just experienced. Guidelines for implementing engagement activities If you want to increase student involvement, interest, and motivation within your blended and online classrooms, here are some guidelines for developing engagement activities. Whatever the tool or medium (online, through a real-time polling system, or traditional pen and paper) engagement activities are powerful ways to enhance learning in face-to-face, blended, and fully online classrooms Jonathan M. Dapra is an assistant professor of management at Plymouth State University and Marcia A. Wratcher is an adjunct professor of education at Northcentral University. References Pomerantz, J., Brown, M., & Brooks, D.C. (2018).  Foundations for a next generation digital learning environment: Faculty, students, and the LMS. Research report. Louisville, CO: ECAR, January.