Beyond Discussion Boards: Applying Interactive Tools and Assignments for Learning

Beyond Discussion Boards: Applying Interactive Tools and Assignments for Learning

Now that the fall semester is in high gear, you may be asked to do an online library instruction for selected classes. Have you thought about ways to embed yourself in a learning module? If the instructor gives you an opportunity to share online learning assignments (or if you are the course instructor), consider the following types of free tools to use to support asynchronous and synchronous online learning. This post will explore a variety of tools for assignments to engage with students “beyond the discussion board posts.” 

Thinking about Polling Students During a Synchronous Zoom Meeting? 

You can do that using Mentimeter, a creative polling option (similar to Poll Everywhere and Vevox). The Zoom platform may have built-in polling features, but Mentimeter can present the results more meaningfully through word clouds or other kinds of visual presentations. In addition, students who may not want to ask questions on audio or via chat can share their comments and questions anonymously. You can use Mentimeter to poll or quiz students informally during the session. It’s a great way to see if students are understanding your content. For example, you may want to ask students to share their research topics or interests in a Mentimeter poll, and poll them again later to see if they have any questions or comments toward the end of your session. 

Interested in a Digital Curation Assignment? 

If you need an activity, Pearltrees is a great tool for students to use to identify and assemble research materials or sources on their own and present them in class. Pearltrees allows users to collect and document images and texts meaningfully. An assignment can have students identify five scholarly articles or five images/visuals on their topics and then ask them to explain the connection between the article and their research topics. The explanation can be done verbally in the call or in their Pearltrees pages. 

Thinking of Synchronous Engagement? 

Consider using Padlet, which allows students to post a note on the virtual board to share what they have found in library databases or what their research topics may be. Padlet is an online blank wall board that can be used by invited participants to collaborate. An assignment using Padlet can be done when it is an online synchronous meeting. You can ask students to search for specific articles in a database and post the citation of the article on the virtual board. Although it may feel a bit cluttered, it can be a useful tool to curate and discuss what everyone has found. A screen share mode can show students what others have found in their research, too. 

How about an Adrenaline Learning Game? 

Kahoot! is a very popular game-based learning tool that is all about quizzes. If you are thinking of a way to change up the learning experience for students, you may consider Kahoot! It’s a great way to inform and review your library services and resources in five to 10 minutes. Set up quizzes in the platform, and students can sign onto their phone or computers and respond to the questions as best and as quickly as they can. The student who responds correctly and fast should be recognized. You can create a quiz that contains 10 questions and place it close to the end of the session of your online workshop. You can briefly explain the right answers, which is a good way to inform and interact with your learners! 

Thinking about Audio Content Assignments? 

VoiceThread or Flipgrid are digital tools that can capture audio/video content. They can be great for students’ voice submissions. Instead of having them write responses to discussion board posts, they can respond through voice. You can have them share their experiences (one-minute long) about the research process and have others respond via voice, too. 

These digital tools may help increase engagement during your session. Note that your institution may actually have a subscription to them already, so you may want to check with your human resources, professional development, or information technology office. One point to consider is that this is a new normal and that students may or may not participate during these circumstances. It’s important to keep your learning objectives for these assignments simple. You may also want to ask faculty to monitor the chat for you. By using tools outside of the learning management site or Zoom/virtual platforms, you may be able to integrate creative activities that teach students how to identify sources for their research and writing needs. This is the time to explore and experiment with these tools! 

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