Increasing student engagement with virtual learning environments

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Tobin, Bryan
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MSc in Applied Psychology
Dublin Business School
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Student engagement has been shown to be positively correlated with measures of student outcomes (e.g. Pascarella, Seifert and Blaich, 2010) and with gains in general education, practical competence and social growth (e.g. Kuh, 2001). Virtual learning environments (VLEs) have been widely deployed in the support of blended learning, as a result engagement with the VLE is now a major part of the student’s overall engagement with the college. Increasing student engagement with VLEs is important in light of the positive outcomes shown in studies (e.g. Kuh, 2001; Pascarella, Seifert and Blaich, 2010), to support the national strategy for further education, increase the flexibility with which students can learn and promote inclusiveness. Although the VLE supports a number of tools to facilitate communication, collaboration and enhanced learning (Risquez et al, 2013, p.102) found the main use of the platform in Ireland was for content distribution and assignment submission. Students and lecturers engage less with the more interactive features of the platforms. To investigate how student engagement with VLEs can be improved a thematic analysis was performed on semi-structured interviews conducted with lecturers and students involved with VLEs. The following themes contributing to levels of engagement emerged 1. Levels of student engagement is strongly dependant on levels of lecturer engagement 2. Lecturer engagement is affected by concerns over re-use of intellectual property 3. Students value the platform most for note dissemination and assignment submission 4. Student value classroom time and this is not undermined by the VLE 5. Training is adequate for basic usage but for more advanced features more training and development needs to be given. Following analysis of these themes six recommendations have been suggested for implementation to increase levels of student engagement with VLEs.