Ryerson Faculty Conference: Notes on Engaging Every Online Student

The Challenges and Lessons of Creating Accessible Course Materials

Ryerson Faculty Conference: Opening Keynote Notes

Teaching and Learning in Socio-technical Networks

Transition to new technology can be hard, but while it can be difficult to learn new technology, there are some positive sides e.g. story of his father getting immediate help when having a heart attack. Continue reading “Ryerson Faculty Conference: Opening Keynote Notes”

Ryerson Faculty Conference: Students’ View on Academic Social Media Use Panel

Some notes from the panel, which consisted of three presenters/moderators and a group of 5 students.

Some Statistics on Technology Use Among RU Students

  • 42% smartphone users used their devices for academics
  • 78% own smartphone
  • 20% integrated seamlessly into classroom environment
  • 50% institution uses technology effective
  • 39% institution needs more technology

Above averages over all students in survey (except the last, which is below).

What Social Media Do You Use for Class Work?

The theme seemed to be convenience in many comments:

  • Use Facebook for IM + file exchange
  • always there, goes straight to smartphone
  • In FB, easy to separate people into groups
  • use Google Apps for docs, calendar, etc.
  • Twitter more convenient than email
  • email is the easiest way to submit assignments

Why do you prefer Social Media outlets instead of the CMS?

  • doesn’t crash
  • user friendly
  • more real world
  • connect outside of classroom
  • inconsistent look and functions e.g. discussion not always enabled
  • habit – already using Twitter/FB before entering university

What Changes Would You Like To See?

  • more consistent use of CMS
  • possible integration into social media
  • possible notifications (though some consider it to just add to the “noise”)
  • automated audio/video capture to be posted for later reference

Faculty also expressed concerns not only on the time commitment needed in an attempt to engage students with different social media outlets, but also privacy. Students, however, said they were more likely to use the CMS if it was more user friendly, had more options, more consistently used, and most importantly, that expectations were clearly outlined.

Ryerson Faculty Conference Keynote #2: Getting Students Engaged

Presenter: Dr. Arne Kislenko

Everyone does things differently and there is a huge subjective component to teaching. What’s presented is also not necessarily based on theories of teaching, but based on overarching principles garnered from experience.

1. Enjoy the Teaching

Teaching is the greatest job in the world. This is the most important place to start, that students understand that you like your job, that they see your enthusiasm. Faculty can actually influence people’s lives, which is a great honour. However, some teachers don’t show up, cut classes, lecture right from a textbook, substitute with technology, which does not allow the development of a personal connection. You need to be there, students need to want to come to class.

It’s worrisome that many universities seem to be diminishing the role of teaching by putting the pursuit of research above all else. However, teaching reinforces research and through teaching we actually communicate with our students.

2. The Active Citizen

We have to teaching from the perspective that students in our classrooms are trying to become citizens in the full sense of the word. We should teach research, writing, critical thinking, objective analysis, to care and take an active role in the world. We should impart some broad consideration of the world.

If someone is apathetic about everything, they are a lost cause. Students should see their education as more than 3-4 years here with a job at the end. They should graduate with a sense of ability to think critically, engage in analysis, direct thoughts about search, and care a little bit about the world, especially since they want to work in this world.

Not only do students need to be engaged, they need to be made engaging with a broad perspective, not just the classes they take. They should be questioned about how they are going to move forward in the working world.

Many students though feel unchallenged and many instructors are fine with them just getting by.

3. High Standards

Respect them as adults with responsibilities and obligations instead of coddling them as children. Have high standards, communicate that to students, and they may aspire to them.

Aside. Draw Connections

We should leave students guessing what we think, and we should welcome them as participants and journeymen.

4. Extracurricular Activities

Be prepared to deliver to our students more than just in the classroom. e.g. alternative spring break – overseas working with NGOs, international discussions

This is the best way to enrich the educational experience, and increase personal growth for students.

Ryerson Faculty Conference Keynote: Can Statistics Help Us Understand Student Engagement?


  • Christopher Evans

National Survey of Student Engagement

While statistics don’t tell the whole story, it shows student perceptions, which are important because those are passed onto other current students and prospective students.

  • 1st + 4th year students, 4200+ at this university
  • from 146 countries


  • live with parents 69%
  • commute to campus 95%
  • >10 hrs/week commuting 38%

Student Employment

  • on campus 13.6%
  • off 54.7%
  • work 68.3%
  • work >10 hrs/week 45.3%

Campus Life

  • participate co-curricular 40%
  • attend campus events < 50%
  • < 10 hr/week (outside of class) 68%

Academic Life

  • significant time studying 79%
  • prepare >10hr/week for class 61%
  • unprepared for class 35%

Satisfaction with Education

  • good/excellent 79%
  • would attend again 81%
  • faculty available/helpful/sympathetic 66%
  • faculty make students aware of research activities by applying their research to teaching 62%

This last point is valuable experience for students and gives a little window to faculty life, which allows students to get to know faculty a little better.

Sense of Community

  • in class 56% – faculty crucial to student’s feeling at home at Ryerson
  • academic program 46%
  • study groups 29%
  • none 12% – realistically, no matter what, some students won’t feel at home, will never be zero

Contributions to Engagement

  • presentation 39%
  • project that integrated ideas from different sources 86%
  • worked with other student during class 46%
  • worked with classmates outside of class 70%
  • discussed ideas with faculty outside class 56%
  • received prompt written/oral feedback 50%

All instructors feel that they give prompt feedback, but perception might be skewed somewhat. For example, an instructor might return a quiz the next class, but when midterms are returned a week later, students may think faculty are being lazy. Faculty activities become important for student perception of engagement as well.

  • participated in community based project 34%
  • practicum/intership/co-op/etc 30%
  • worked with faculty members on activities other than coursework 38%
  • capstone/thesis/senior project (4th only) 23%
  • worked on research project with faculty member outside of program requirements 8% – skewed to lower side, because includes 1st and 4th year students


  • work/financial 83%
  • family
  • health/disability

What would Improve Learning Experience

These were very generic answers.

  • quality of instruction 34%
  • increase contact 21%
  • improve quality of academic support 24%
  • more opportunities to undertake research with faculty 25%
  • reduce class size 13% – large classes aren’t a big deal, but the subject matter and how it is presented

Teaching Chairs Report – Faculty Concerns

  • most common presentation forms: lecture, seminar/method course, lab/studio
  • motivating students 89%
  • evaluating students’ learning 65%
  • understanding learning differences 53%
  • understanding how students develop intellectually 59%
Faculty Express Concern About
  • students attitudes and behaviour – class attendance, participation
  • administrative and logistical challenges – scheduling, large class sizes

Faculty feel large class sizes are a problem, but students don’t.

What does the data tell us about engagement?

NSSE data gives us hints about academic and social interaction

  • academic integration: perception of faculty interest, academic resources, academic preparation
  • social integration: student’s perception of his/her ties to the post-secondary institution, which include extend to which student is involved in institution-related activities, perception of faculty and staff attitude, institutional sensitivity, institution events

Some faculty portray a kind of remote veneer that keeps them at arm’s length, which makes them unapproachable.

The data tells the what, but not the how or why, and only about student perception.

Levels of Engagement

While the NSSE focus on two types of levels of engagement, the data doesn’t give us much insight into any of the others.

  • mentoring – highlevel, multi-variant interaction (NSSE focus)
  • personal
  • functional interaction – contact for particular, institutional purposes (NSSE focus)
  • incidental
  • disengagement

Benefits of Increasing Faculty Student Engagement

  • higher grades
  • improved student confidence
  • increases student perception of being valued
  • increases persistence in higher education

Faculty may find it a bit of a balancing act for sure, but asking about a student concern at the time may help to save time later, should situation grow worse.

How to Increase Engagement

One slice does not fit all – some suggestions will not be for you.

  • provide opportunities for students to write = dialogue
  • attend student events, esp those at are purposeful (e.g. student colloquium)
  • encourage students to attend offices hours, and keep encouraging
  • have projects that encourage collaboration and continued feedback
  • pay close attention to student interactions – if socailly isolated, struggling
  • have faculty model their methods of engaging students to each other – some faculty members are known to be oustanding teachers and have the skills with engaging students, we can learn from them