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C2C Digital Magazine (Spring / Summer 2018)

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Book Review: Encouraging Student Engagement in Online and Blended Learning

By Shalin Hai-Jew, Kansas State University

Student Engagement and Participation: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications
Published: June 2017
1595 pages

A generally accepted premise is that learners do better at their task if they are actually engaged, entranced by the learning and invested in the outcomes. In the exchanges that occur in teaching and learning, teachers and learners each have to bring something to ensure that the engagement happens. “Student Engagement and Participation: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications” is a compendium of research around the topic of learner engagement.

In these 78 chapters, the researchers engage a variety of theories, learning domains, learner age groups (K12 through university), technologies, and methods. They strive toward increased learner engagement by looking at the learners themselves, the topical domain, the local teaching and learning contexts, learning design, online assessments, social media platforms and their usage, human sociality, and other factors. They appeal to people’s idealism—the sense that education can be life-changing, that people have an equal right to education and all its potential benefits, and that people have a duty of care for each other.

A Focus on Learner Support 

Kitty Fortner and Jose Lalas’ “Strategies of Engagement: Parent and School Connections” (Ch. 1) focuses on strategies and tactics to support learners at risk of dropping out, by, in part, bring in parents to help at-risk students re-engage (Fortner & Lalas, 2017, p. 1). The larger role of the community can be critical in providing support to learners. This narrative inquiry research describes an effort to have the parent advisor group at Mountain View High School reach out supportively to at-risk learners:

The socially and culturally situated lens of social capital, cultural capital and structures of social class were used to identify strategies of engagement and examples of how these strategies changed perspectives for the students who participated in the program. African American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and low achieving white students all benefited from strategies used by the Mountain View Parent Advisory Group. (Fortner & Lalas, 2017, p. 2)

The parents provided a range of supports: 
  • “Mentoring student so that they can achieve academic excellence.
  • Encouraging students in the pursuit of respectable career paths. 
  • Motivating students to contribute to their communities by enriching the lives of others.
  • Informing parents and students of the opportunities for success available to them.” (Fortner & Lalas, 2017, pp. 6 - 7) 
Their efforts are credited with “higher GPAs, increased graduation rates, increased participation in school functions and higher college and university matriculation by student groups who had previously been identified as at-risk of failure, have been documented and continue to be in effect” (Fortner & Lalas, 2017, p. 2). Underlying this work are some important ideas and practices: the need to use empirical data of achievements and outcomes, the interests of parents to support all learners (beyond their own children), the power of social capital in helping people advance, the need to affirm learners’ respective cultural backgrounds, and the power of human connections.

Henry Gillow-Wiles and Margaret L. Niess’s “A Reconstructed Conception of Learner Engagement in Technology Rich Online Learning Environments” (Ch. 2) defines what student engagement looks like in an online math course and suggests some ways to increase this. The co-researchers conceptualize “engagement” in multiple directions—engagement with the learning community, technology, mathematics contents, and “an amalgam of all three” (to capture interaction effects) (Gillow-Wiles & Niess, 2017, p. 19). In this case, there are not only digitally mediated contents but also the use of a Venier temperature probe package, LoggerLite data collection and analysis software, and assignments to advance mathematical concepts.

The participants then applied this developing knowledge to the design of activities and lessons where the technology supported students in learning mathematics concepts (i.e. coordinate graphing, functions) as well as problem solving (i.e. hypothesis testing, exploration, and inquiry). As part of their learning experiences, they collaborated in both small and large groups of students in examining, refining, and sharing their understanding. During this unit, the participants created videos and Powerpoint (sic) presentations to share their thinking and knowledge. (Gillow-Wiles & Niess, 2017, p. 27)

One indicator of learner engagement involved how comfortable people felt in sharing information about themselves. Those who were disengaged “rarely referred to others by name, made comments directed to topics outside the content, or volunteered personal information about themselves. They never built the kind of relationships with other participants that engendered trust. It is not to say that the contributions of these participants were not valued; it is just that they were not included in more casual, non-academic conversations that were a staple of a functioning community. From this evidence, we surmised that these participants had a more limited level of community engagement than those participants who developed more personal connections” (Gillow-Wiles & Niess, 2017, p. 37). The researchers used the so-called TPACK (technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge) model to inform how they could better increase learner engagement.

Figure 1. TPACK Visualization by Llenon)

Arriving at Authenticity

Carolina Eve Blatt-Gross’s “Connecting the Past and the Present: Using our Deep History of Learning through Community Art to Inform Contemporary Student Engagement” (Ch. 3) offers a creative approach to combat apathy and to heighten people’s enthusiasm for learning—by encouraging co-creating community art. The author harnesses research from “neuroscience, anthropology, psychology, education and the arts” to suggest the importance of community-based art education (Blatt-Gross, 2017, p. 50). Art is conceptualized as a universal human practice across cultures, and it serves in multifaceted roles in society. The practice of community art comes with some basic values and practices:

Community art, they state, is characterized by “an experiential and inclusive nature” with a unique participatory design in which an art practitioner “works with others in grassroots settings to create art in the public interest” (Krensky & Steffen, p. 11, as cited in Blatt-Gross, 2017, p. 53).

The pleasure of art-making “makes people feel good about what they are doing and makes them want to work together” (Blatt-Gross, 2017, p. 55). Art helps people work through challenges and be more resilient, and it can help them have social discussions around issues in the community.

J. Christine Harmes and Steven L. Wise’s “Assessing Engagement during the Online Assessment of Real-World Skills” (Ch. 4) deals with issues of authentic assessment of a nursing licensure exam. Authentic assessment is usually applied to knowledge and skills that have to transfer to the real world, and in online assessments, these often require “innovative item formats” that go beyond classic multiple choice. These may include using videos or simulations to make the assessments more high-fidelity to the world.

The general taxonomy provided by Parshall et al. includes seven dimensions for classifying innovative items: assessment structure, response action, media inclusion, interactivity, complexity, fidelity, and scoring method (2010). Assessment structure describes the continuum from a discrete item, such as an individual selected-response item, to a complete simulated environment. Response action refers to the actions required on the part of the student to record a response. This range could include using a mouse or track pad to select elements, directly interacting with the screen, or operating specialized real-world devices. Media inclusion covers various ways of incorporating multimedia elements such as graphics, audio, or video. Interactivity describes the degree to which the items or tasks respond to input from the student. Complexity refers to the range of components that the student needs to work with in order to complete the item or task. Fidelity is the degree to which an assessment accurately reproduces the context and interactions required for the task in its real-world setting. Scoring method covers how student responses are translated into scores on the item or task and then for the overall test. While each of these dimensions can be considered on its own, one often affects another. For example, increasing the number of elements a student has to interact with to respond to an item (complexity) will often be part of a more complicated assessment structure, and will usually result in a scoring method that is more advanced than a single mark of correct or not correct. Similarly, moving along the assessment structure continuum from discrete items toward situated tasks will tend to increase the interactivity, as well increasing fidelity. (Harmes & Wise, 2017, pp. 75 - 76)

Here, the researchers used the Item Engagement Index (IEI) and the Student Engagement Index (SEI) to measure the amount of student effort and engagement / disengagement during the test-taking (Harmes & Wise, 2017, p. 74). After all, disengaged test-taking results in scores “with diminished validity” (Wise & DeMars, 2005; Wise & Kong, 2005; Wolf & Smith, 1995, as cited in Harmes & Wise, 2017, p. 77). The author cites research that “found non-effortful test taking to be associated with items that require greater amounts of reading” (Wise, 2006; Wise, Pastor, & Kong, 2009) or are more mentally taxing (Wolf, Smith, & Birnbaum, 1995), as cited in Harmes & Wise, 2017, p. 76). Test-taking engagement with an assessment is correlated with higher rates of correct answers.

Sang Chan and Devshikha Bose’s “Engage Online Learners: Design Considerations for Promoting Student Interactions” (Ch. 5) argues for the creation of learning that engages learners “cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally” (2017, p. 96). The relationships they observe are those between student-instructor, student-student, and student-content, and they focused on ways to improve the quality of each—often with technology as the mediation.

Building to Various Types of Learning 

Jill E. Stefaniak’s “A Framework for Promoting Complex Learning in a Blended Learning Environment” (Ch. 6) focuses on more intricate learning outcomes and designed learning strategies to achieve those particular objectives. Such endeavors require tapping into learners’ prior knowledge and building on those. In this case, the Four Component / Instructional Design (4C/ID) model was to design the teaching of complex tasks over extended periods of time. The learning process was separated into four components: “learning tasks, supportive information, procedural information, and part-task practice” (van Merriënboer & Kirschner, 2013, as cited in Stefaniak, 2017, p. 129). The researcher highlights some insightful challenges of complex learning and the importance also of using data-based approaches to design.

Christos Manolis and Eleni Kalaitzidou’s “Personal Learning Environments and Social Networks in the Traditional School System: An Applied Case Study in the Greek Educational System” (Ch. 7) describes an endeavor by the Ministry of Education in Greece. Apparently, their “Digital School” endeavor enables access to “all schoolbooks converted to an electronic format (e-books), enhanced with additional interactive educational material” (p. 132). The authors suggest that e-books harnessed for use in personal learning environments may really begin to extend more self-study. (Would this mean that copyright releases are extended by publishers to make such copies of books available?)

Mabel C.P.O. Okojie’s “Designing and Delivering Web-based Instruction to Adult Learners in Higher Education” (Ch. 8) involves introducing technologies that learners may use to “be involved in the design of their Web-based instruction” (Okojie, 2017, p. 157), including “Adobe Connect, Camtasia, Articulate Storyline, SoftChalk, Prezi,, and Google Hangout” (p. 157), for web conferencing, screen recording, authoring, presentations, document creation, and interacting in mediated ways. One of the more engaging insights in this work involves the inclusiveness of adult learners in the co-design of their learning, to ultimately encourage them to “explore learning and connect with each other without inhibition” (Okojie, 2017, p. 157).

Susan Ang’s “Intercultural Dialogue through Design (iDiDe): A Model of Intercultural Collaboration and Student Engagement” (Ch. 9) describes an Australian endeavor to encourage the “equitable exchange and dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based on mutual understanding and respect, and the equal dignity of all culture” to increase constructive and peaceable social interchanges (Ang, 2017, p. 182). To these ends, an “intercultural dialogue through design” (iDiDe) approach designed for architecture students was applied as a pedagogical approach to intercultural collaborations and engaged student learning.

Robin Colson and Atsusi Hirumi’s “A Framework for the Design of Online Competency-Based Education to Promote Student Engagement” (Ch. 10) suggests that the focus on accountability by institutions of higher education for “student retention, graduation and job placement rates, and debt levels” has forced moves to less traditional approaches, including the adoption of competency-based education (Colson & Hirumi, 2017, p. 204). The co-authors describe various considerations and approaches for setting up a competency based course.

Harnessing Powerful Technologies and Rich Combinations

Young learners, defined as those aged 9 to 19 years old, are the focus of Virgínia Tiradentes Souto’s “A Framework for Designing Interactive Digital Learning Environments for Young People” (Ch. 11). This design framework focuses on three components: “designing for learning (including content, skills, and user characteristics), user interaction (including accessibility, interaction, platform requirements, and usability), and visual (including typography, icons, images, information visualization, and interface structure)” (Souto, 2017, p. 235).

Eleonora Guglielman, Marco Guspini, & Laura Vettraino’s “Complex Learning: A Way of Rethinking Teaching and Learning” (Ch. 12) uses a complexity angle to design learning that enables people to engage with the real world and that requires learners to actively structure their own knowledge and approach learning in non-linear ways. The authors conceptualize the steps to development of learners over time, moving through initial access to socialization to collaboration and then networking (p. 245). This pedagogical approach is “based on personalization, hybridization of learning environments, tools and codes, and participatory learning” and is conceptualized as particularly applicable to “vocational training and adult education” (p. 242). The “complexity” is understood as a kind of catch-all category, but its requirements make it difficult to hone in on one educational theory over another.

The innovativeness of the “Complex” approach makes it necessary to interpret it through an eclectic theoretical point of view; in fact, since the learning process is carried out in heterogeneous dimensions (formal, non-formal, informal, real, virtual, individual, collective, face-to-face, etc.) and refers to a continuously evolving phenomenon, it would be simplistic to take the perspective of one educational theory. (Guglielman, Guspini, & Vettraino, 2017, p. 245)

Rather the focus is on learner competencies that enable capabilities like “self orienteering” and “collaborative attitudes” and “culture of knowledge” to “allow learners to ‘swim’ proficiently in liquidity” (Guglielman, Guspini, & Vettraino, 2017, p. 256).

Victoria I. Marín and Jesús Salinas’ “First Steps in the Development of a Model for Integrating Formal and Informal Learning in Virtual Environments” (Ch. 13) captures the importance of forethought in design. Generally, formal learning refers to accredited learning sequences, and informal learning refers to learning as an ad hoc byproduct of other activities. This chapter, which stems from the University of the Balearic Islands in Spain, proposes the harnessing of third-party Web 2.0 tools to extend learning through an LMS. In a sense, the contemporary LTI integrations align with the ideas in this work.

Angela Dowling and Terence C. Ahern’s “Implementing a Game-Based Instructional Design Strategy in the Eighth Grade Science Classroom: Teaching Science the Chutes and Ladders Way!” (Ch. 14) emphasizes the importance of learners perceiving an initial sense of fun to capture attention and then continuing forms of interactivity to maintain the engagement. Games are designed as various forms of gameplay on a gameboard space(s); behaviors are elicited from learners who have particular objectives to achieve. “Experimentation is an essential element in game play. Computer-based simulations and games allow students the opportunity to experiment with the ‘what if’ problems,” they observe; further, gameplay enables the “okay to fail” sensibility (pp. 292 – 293). The game in this chapter was based on a biology unit of study for 8th grade learners, and the content was organized in levels:

Level 1 dealt with the cell,
Level 2 dealt with body systems,
Level 3 involved collaborative presentations of Levels 1 and 2, and
Level 4 was the programming of a simulation of an epidemic using StarLogo software. (Dowling & Ahern, 2017, p. 293)

Observations of how the learners engaged with the game, with on-task behaviors and peer interactions, affirmed medium and high levels of engagement (Dowling & Ahern, 2017, p. 298).

Raymond W. Francis, Mary Jo Davis, and Jon Humiston’s “Engaging Students in Large Classes through the Use of Blended Learning Instructional Strategies (BLIS)” (Ch. 15) addresses a common challenge of engaging learners in large classrooms. The authors write: “It is not enough to be great at sharing information in a large classroom setting. To be an effective teacher you must be able to meaningfully engage your students with their peers and with the content, and you must do this regardless of class size or content” (Francis, Davis, & Humiston, 2017, p. 306). Blended Learning Instructional Strategies (BLIS) include learner activities and technologies to help learners better integrate their new learning with existing knowledge. The ideas seem fairly straightforward, such as using advance organizers or pre-class questions at the beginning of class (p. 309), eliciting feedback from learners to see if they are understanding particular points (p. 310), enabling learners to submit questions during lectures (p. 311), harnessing cooperative learning, such as through jigsaw approaches and think-pair-share (p. 312), executing an “exit ticket” or “one-minute paper” for spontaneous writing to capture what is top-of-mind (p. 313), having learners identify confusing or challenging issues, and others. Finally, the authors point out the hard work of engaging learners in a large-course context.

Nathaniel Ostashewski, Sonia Dickinson-Delaporte, and Romana Martin’s “Reconceptualizing Learning Designs in Higher Education: Using Mobile Devices to Engage Students in Authentic Tasks” (Ch. 16) shares “a design and development roadmap for the adaptation of traditional classroom activities into engaging iPad-based digital learning activities” (p. 319). In this case, the focus is on classroom activities in a post-graduate marketing course at the Curtin Business School at Curtain University (in Australia) for authentic real-world learning. The co-authors describe one of the first learning activities:

One of the first learning activities selected for the iPad adaptation was a collage creation activity – where small groups of students were tasked with presenting a target audience for a given brand in a visual format. The team explored familiar free iPad Apps, such as Drawing Pad, and developed a learning design and classroom sequence for the lecturer to implement the activity. After installing the required Apps on the iPads, the team introduced this first activity to the class. The presence of the whole team in the classroom on this initial trial was critical for the lecturer, who was not fully adept at using many of the iPad-specific hardware and software functions needed for the task. This was because the lecturer was still a relatively new iPad user, but also because login access to the campus networks, patchy Wi-Fi access, and students using their own iPads, presented some initial stumbling points for the activity. By the end of the first trial activity, students were interested in engaging with the iPads more, and many of the iPad issues had been resolved. (Ostashewski, Dickinson-Delaporte, & Martin, 2017, p. 325)

This first foray, described evocatively, shows the willingness of the group to experiment on the fly and then to revise their approaches over time. They described their general process:

1. Identify Aims of Activity, 2. Develop Learning Design for iPad, 3. Pilot the activity with students, 4. Share outputs, (and) 5. Evaluate Activity and modify as required (Ostashewski, Dickinson-Delaporte, & Martin, 2017, p. 326).

Using the iPad, the learners did develop “a cognitive map, create a digital collage, design a movie ad, critique others’ work, and collaborate around a final assessment case study” (Ostashewski, Dickinson-Delaporte, & Martin, 2017, pp. 330 - 332). The iPad apps used include Mindjet, Drawing Pad, Safari, and iMovie (with the iPad camera) (p. 325).

Oryina Kingsley Akputu, Kah Phooi Seng, and Yun Li Lee’s “Affect Recognition for Web 2.0 Intelligent E-Tutoring Systems: Exploration of Students’ Emotional Feedback” (Ch. 17) points to the importance of having computers perceive learner moods and emotional states in order to better support human learning. The approach described here harnesses machine vision for human indicators of emotion and affect, which are understood on a number of dimensions:

Arousal (deactivating/activating).
Valance (negative/positive).
Intensity (low-intense).
Duration(Short-long). (Akputu, Seng, & Lee, 2017, p. 342)

They used the Kort-Reilly-Picard dynamic model of emotions in learning which highlights ranges of negative to positive affect that may contribute to construction of learning vs. those that lead to no learning. In this model, curiosity and satisfaction are positive affects that lead to learning, but anticipation and acceptance may not. On the negative affect side, disappointment and confusion may contribute to learning, but frustration and rejection do not—because they lead to the shutting down of the learner (p. 343). The authors also referred to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” concept. 

Figure 2.  Challenge vs. Skill in Csikszentmihalyi's Flow Concept (by Oliver Beatson)

The co-researchers share insights about varying levels of recognition accuracy for engagement, confusion, boredom, and hopefulness, using their system (Akputu, Seng, & Lee, 2017, p. 357). They also capture between-class transitions as learners transition between states (p. 357). This work is one of the more intriguing ones in part because of the mix of technologies and focus on learner emotional states, which affect cognition and learning.

Informed by Data and Empirics

Collette Gavan’s “Developing a Framework for the Effective Use of Learning Analytics: A UK Perspective” (Ch. 18) describes the analysis of learning data to understand how to help novice undergraduate learners learn Javascript, given the challenges of programming abstractions. The initial idea was that using virtual worlds or robotics might lead to higher student attainment (Gavan, 2017, p. 371). The main insight from their work:

The findings of this study have revealed that student engagement is significantly enhanced when a problem-based learning strategy encompasses physical computing in the form of robotics. Equally, the analysis of data that has been collated also highlights the student appreciation of the holistic experience. The analytics facilitated both direct and indirect data capture, with triangulation of this evidence supporting the findings that have been reached. (Gavan, 2017, p. 394)

Victoria M. Cardullo, Nance S. Wilson, and Vassiliki I. Zygouris-Coe’s “Enhanced Student Engagement through Active Learning and Emerging Technologies” (Ch. 19) offer a range of vignettes in which Metacognitive Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge Framework or M-TPACK-enabled teachers advance active learning in a variety of contexts. Here, (super)teachers are adventuresome and collaborative and savvy. Said more specifically:

The M-TPACK framework propositions that the teacher is knowledgeable regarding content, technology, curriculum, and students while maintaining the disposition that supports technology integration and an adaptive approach to teaching and learning. A pedagogy that places student learning at the center with a metacognitive teacher who has a metacognitive disposition towards active learning with technology could support and enhance learning in an active classroom. (Cardullo, Wilson, & Zygouris-Coe, 2017, p. 408)

The authors observe that meeting the high expectations of Generation Alpha (those born after 2010) will raise expectations for teaching and learning (Cardullo, Wilson, & Zygouris-Coe, 2017, pp. 412 - 413).

Dimitra Kokotsaki’s “Engagement and Creativity in Music Education” (Ch. 20) reads like a call to action to enhance pedagogical practices in music learning to position it more centrally in students’ lives. Core to this work are the salutary effects of music on “children’s self-esteem, their social behavior and cognitive skills, such as creativity, spatial-temporal ability, reading, language and IQ score” (Kokotsaki, 2017, p. 418). When children are engaged in creative work, they “are affectively, behaviorally and cognitively involved with the creative task” and are able to engage in “divergent thinking” (Kokotsaki, 2017, p. 420). For all the benefits, though, there seems to be a low enrollment of music as an elective (p. 424). To change the numbers, the author calls for “more ethnographic studies in the music classroom” (Kokotsaki, 2017, p. 426).

Cinthya Ippoliti’s “If You Build It Will They Come? The Learning Commons Engages Students Out of Class” (Ch. 21) highlights the centrality of libraries in higher education and their enriched efforts at reaching out to learners to meet their needs. The “learning commons” is a space where students gather outside of class for their studies, socializing, reading, and other activities—their out-of-class engagement. This work describes efforts at the Terrapin Learning Commons at the University of Maryland to broaden library services, with “learning spaces, workshops/events, technology, and partnerships in promoting and supporting a sense of comradery, collaboration and fun for students as part of their academic experience at the university” (Ippoliti, 2017, p. 434). The author emphasizes the importance of people in TLC’s infrastructure to support learners at extended hours (p. 437). Their outreaches are especially engaging (p. 441), with friendly open houses around technologies (one event focused on downloadable e-books, Google Glass, and 3-D printing, for example). This chapter provides a strong sense of what it takes on-ground to make a learning commons welcoming and truly supportive to learners.

WebQuests may seem like learning artifacts from the late 1990s to mid-2000s, but in many contexts, they are still relevant, particularly in “developing world conditions of limited and costly Internet bandwidth” given the directedness of WebQuests (Asunka, 2017, p. 457). To this end, Stephen Asunka’s “Using the WebQuest Approach to Elicit Student Engagement in a University Course: A Case Study” (Ch. 22) describes the harnessing of these learning objects at a private university in Ghana.

To refresh, a webquest is defined as “a scaffolded learning structure that uses links to essential resources on the World Wide Web and an authentic task to motivate students’ investigation of an open-ended question, development of individual expertise, and participation to a group process that transforms newly acquired information into a more sophisticated understanding” (March, 2004, as cited in Asunka, 2017, p. 458) If designed well, these are especially helpful in a context with limited connectivity to the Internet because not a lot of time is spent just exploring, with learners going directly to pre-determined URLs, without the potential wastefulness of wild goose chases. This work is based on a tourism course with five students at the Ghana Technology University College.

Fernando Martinez-Abad, Patricia Torrijos-Fincias, and María José Rodríguez-Conde’s “The eAssessment of Key Competences and their Relationship with Academic Performance” (Ch. 23) addresses the criticality of “information skills” [“the set of knowledge, skills, dispositions and behaviors that enable individuals to recognize when they need information, where to locate it, how to assess their suitability an dhow to use them according to the problem at hand” (CRUE-TIC & REBUIN, 2009, p. 5, as cited in Martinez-Abad, Torrijos-Fincias, & Rodríguez-Conde, 2017, p. 481)]. The research question here asks how this core study competence (and its related sub-skills) affects students’ academic performance.

George P. Banky’s “The Importance of a Collaboratory: Using Collaboration Software to Engage and Assess Students in Computer-Screen-Based Tutorials” (Ch. 24) involves a multi-year study of learner collaboration during computer-screen-based tutorials, with mixed findings of observable collaborations and learner performance.

Brian G. Burton and Barbara Martin’s “Knowledge Creation and Student Engagement within 3D Virtual Worlds” (Ch. 25) explores learning in “a 3D didactic constructivist virtual world” (p. 507). Their research is built around recorded conversations in this virtual world, and these were studied to ascertain the level of learner engagement and knowledge co-creation. The researchers observed the learners taking on “a myriad of roles to solve problems,” and “the majority of the students appeared to engage in the content and the context of the learning using the entire dimensions of reasoning skills…” (Burton & Martin, 2017, p. 517). With proper design, “collective reflection” may be enhanced (p. 519). These co-authors call for longitudinal studies about learning in 3D virtual learning environments (p. 520).

Judit Lacomba Masmiquel, August Climent Ferrer, and David Fonseca’s “School Performance Analysis from a Scholastic Learning Process” (Ch. 26) finds that students’ study habits do have a relationship with academic performance (p. 526). The research instrument, a questionnaire, studied five metrics: “motivation in the learning process, auto-regulated learning, learning strategy, learning consolidation, (and) superficial learning”; the first four “are moderately correlated with each other and improve the learning processes” but the superficial learning is “less favorable, and it is negatively correlated with the other four factors” (Masmiquel, Ferrer, & Fonseca, 2017, p. 531), which may seem intuitive.

David Fuentes, Heejung An, and Sandra Alon’s “Mobile Devices and Classroom Management: Considerations and Applications for Effective Use in an Elementary School Classroom” (Ch. 27) conveys a sense of caution in how mobile devices (iPads) are integrated into a 5th grade classroom, in order to control for their usage. Written as a narrative, this chapter describes the teacher’s uses of contracts to ensure the proper usage of the one-on-one application iPads and a technology squad to help with managing the devices. The depiction of the teacher is a little breathless: “Upon entering Ms. G’s room, one may not recognize the many hours and nights that Ms. G. spent planning how would she implement the 20 iPad’s (sic) that her school had just purchased for her into her classroom” (Fuentes, An, & Alon, 2017, p. 544). Of special interest is that the teacher “Ms. G” had never used an iPad before and had to learn the device and software before deploying this to her class.

Mediating and Enabling Technologies

Kamal Taha’s “CRS: A Course Recommender System” (Ch. 28) describes an effort to disintermediate academic advising from human advisers by using technology. This work seems to be a proposal out of a research university in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and it is not clear how far this was advanced beyond the framework and design phases. Certainly, using technologies to stand in for human guidance, expertise, and the human touch will continue.

Alexandra Kootsookos’ “Assessment Practices using Online Tools in Undergraduate Programs” (Ch. 29) considers some of the best practices for online assessments. This brief chapter, based on a review of the literature, and some on-ground observations and abductive logic, engages issues such as feedback to learners, peer review, online tests and quizzes, plagiarism detection, audience response systems, and others.

Hazel Jones’ “Humanizing the Online Experience through Effective Use and Analysis of Discussion Forums” (Ch. 30) suggests that without social interactions, an online course is analogically “a locked room…empty and dark with no sign of anyone else around—a very lonely and uninviting place” (Jones, 2017, p. 587). To combat that loneliness, instructors need to promote “a sense of belonging and deep learning and collaborative learning for students” (Jones, 2017, p. 587). They need to humanize the sense of learners; they need to design appropriate interactivity (such as on the discussion forums). To harness the social aspects of learning—Jones applies several models: D. Randy Garrison, Terry Anderson, and Walter Archer’s “Community of Inquiry (COI)” framework, and Gilly Salmon’s Five-Stage Model.

Marit Grande Haugdal and Hilde Sundfaer’s “Fantasy Workshop: Active Use of a Learning Management System (LMS) as an Approach to Blended Learning” (Ch. 31) describes a 6th grade literature class in Norway, where the learners explore the fantasy genre in a blended context—using both the physical classroom and a learning management system (called “itslearning”). The aim was to create a five-week workshop to engage these young learners in the writing process. The authors describe the work of building the theme page, setting up the various parts of the LMS to meet learning objectives, designing for collaborative writing among the learners and the teacher, and harnessing online resources; they also share their teaching experiences—for an insider’s view. They describe how they considered various human intelligences and built to those understandings. Some of their shared screenshots convey the user interfaces.

Lena Paulo Kushnir and Kenneth Berry’s “Saving Face in Online Learning: New Directions in Teaching and E-Learning” (Ch. 32) engages a cultural issue related to protecting people’s senses of dignity and public reputation and senses of self. This work is based off of a second-year Introductory Psychology course at OCAD University in Canada. Of special interest, how do specific variables impacting “social presence, affect, cognition” and other factors affect learner outcomes? This quasi-experimental study surfaced some insights, such as learner appreciation for interactive quizzes and active components as benefiting their learning (Kushnir & Berry, 2017, p. 643).

Rosalind Raby’s “Using the International Negotiation Modules Project (INMP) to Build a Learning Community” (Ch. 33) is centered around a community college curriculum that has been taught for two decades already. The online simulations of the INMP is topically based for global and internationalized applications given that this course of study “places the student in the role of decision maker representing different countries and who then negotiates with other students on real-world issues” (Raby, 2017, p. 653). The work is inherently cross-disciplinary. Based on this shared curriculum, created as part of the University of Maryland ICONS project, various learning communities emerged—those faculty and learners. Raby’s work highlights some intended and unintended outcomes from a nontraditional pedagogy.

Catherine Lang and Narelle Lemon’s “Embracing Social Media to Advance Knowledge Creation and Transfer in the Modernized University: Management of the Space, the Tool, and the Message” (Ch. 34) touches on the hopes that exist about the roles of social media to advance knowledge creation and transfer. In a visual expression of the approach, social media is conceptualized as enabling the creation of contents, their curation, and human collegiality and intercommunications “anytime, anywhere” (Lang & Lemon, 2017, p. 681). In this work, the authors share multiple real-world cases of this phenomenon.

Siva Sankaran and Kris Sankaran’s “Improving Online Course Performance through Customization: An Empirical Study using Business Analytics” (Ch. 35) argues the case that business analytics methods [think multiple linear/polynomial regression and generalized additive modeling (GAM)] may help predict learner performance. In this study, the co-authors examine six personal learner characteristics “communication aptitude, desire to learn, escapism, hours studied, gender, and English as a Second Language” (Sankaran & Sankaran, 2017, p. 688) for their predictivity of learner performance. The six characteristics, captured through survey, seem like a grab bag of features. Based on the best fit models, between the two statistical data analytics methods, the authors found regression was more effective than GAM at predicting student performance. Some findings seem intuitive. Communication aptitude has a positive effect on academic performance; next most important is the “desire to learn.” Together, though, coming in high in these two features can be problematic: “The linear model showed that these two characteristics together have a negative relationship with GPA” potentially because “these students spend less hours studying online” (Sankaran & Sankaran, 2017, p. 703). In such a case, these learners may need support so that their impetuses are channeled constructively (Sankaran & Sankaran, 2017, p. 703). Hours spent per session did not have an effect on learner performance (an observation that suggests that “seat time” itself is not necessarily contributory to student learning) (Sankaran & Sankaran, 2017, p. 703). This research offers some thought-through implications for systems design, faculty work, counselor work, and administrator work.

Christie Bledsoe and Jodi Pilgrim’s “Challenge-based Learning using iPad Technology in the Middle School” (Ch. 36) describes a case of challenge-based learning (CBL) as instantiated with a one-to-one take-home iPad initiative, to extend the learning beyond the regular hours of a school day.

Joyce W. Njoroge, Inchul Suh, Diana Reed, and Troy J. Strader’s “Acceptability of Social Media Use in Out-of-Class Faculty-Student Engagement” (Ch. 37) takes on the question of how instructors should engage with learners on social media, outside of the classroom. On the positive side, the human aspects of a faculty member may be appealing to and may encourage learning engagement (Njoroge, Suh, Reed, & Strader, 2017, p. 736). On the more risky side, how much should teachers and learners overlap their personal and professional ones? The authors also note that faculty in many fields will not engage with current students on social media but only with former students.

Amy L. Sedivy-Benton, Betty K. Wood, James M. Fetterly, and Bronwyn D. MacFarlane’s “Using Creativity to Facilitate an Engaged Classroom” (Ch. 38) proposes the benefit of designing assignments that appeal to a range of human intelligences. Such designs require much from instructors, who have to build so-called multiple-method and multi-solution tasks, and to ultimately foster novelty in a profession. Based on prior research, creative teachers share some common traits, “persistence, self-confidence, a sense of humor, autonomy, accepting attitudes, active imaginations, a willingness to push boundaries and take risks, an integrated use of the arts during instruction, originality, and adaptability, specifically in regard to sensing and responding to student differences" (Anderson, 2002; Horng, Hong, ChanLin, Chang, & Chu, 2005; Oreck, 2006; Rinkevich, 2011, as cited in Sedivy-Benton, Wood, Fetterly, & MacFarlane, 2017, p. 759). The authors provide a sample lesson format that serves as a worksheet to enable thinking through a lesson from its core elements, the planning, the lesson implementation, efforts to conclude and extend the lesson, and then a reflection-based revision (Sedivy-Benton, Wood, Fetterly, & MacFarlane, 2017, p. 764).

Louis Leung’s “A Panel Study on the Effects of Social Media Use and Internet Connectedness on Academic Performance and Social Support” (Ch. 39) makes the case that social support is important in people’s lives, and insofar as social media and Internet connectedness are used to those ends, they may be beneficial for academic performance. This longitudinal panel study showed that “heavy Facebook use has a positive effect on overall grades, while heavy use of blogs and online games leads to grade impairment” (Leung, 2017, p. 778). However, the author also suggests that some Internet use is linked to improvements in reading skills and that video game playing is associated with the development of visual-spatial skills. The findings seem fairly general and could benefit from more nuanced and confidently assertable insights (if they exist).

Levette S. Dames, Chadwick Royal, and Kyla M. Sawyer-Kurian’s “Active Student Engagement through the Use of WebEx, MindTap, and a Residency Component to Teach a Masters Online Group Counseling Course” (Ch. 40) describes the cobbling of methods and tools to promote active learning for students in a masters online group counseling course. Their focus was on ensuring that students were continuously engaged, on having online presence for the instructors, and for improving the organization of the course (Dames, Royal, & Sawyer-Kurian, 2017, p. 807), and these are addressed in the extended case study.

Robert Costello’s “Evaluating E-Learning from an End User Perspective” (Ch. 41) reads like an early work on e-learning, with getting started approaches explored. Core concerns include a learner focus, based on user modeling from the beginning to ensure quality of the learning.

Margaret Anne Carter, Cecily Knight, Paul Pagliano, and Donna Goldie’s “Learning about Blended Learning through Students’ Experiences: An Exploratory Study in Postgraduate Guidance and Counseling Programs in a University with Campuses in Australia and Singapore” (Ch. 42) directly captures the experiences from learners, who share observations about what would benefit the blended learning experiences. This approach conveys a deep “costly signaling” sort of respect for learners.

Erica J. Woods-Warrior’s “Regenerating HBCU Persistence and Retention: Rethinking the First-Year Experience” (Ch. 43) focuses on historically black colleges and universities, their educational and social justice missions, and how to advance these in a practical way—by ensuring that students retain during the critical first year. As schools for the historically disenfranchised, HBCUs serve as critical incubators for learners; they provide “comprehensive pedagogy and practices, including learning communities, first-year programs, and mentorship” to support their students (Woods-Warrior, 2017, p. 869). HBCUs include “public and private, 2-year and 4-year institutions, medical schools, and community colleges…(and are) comprised of over 80% ethnic and racial minority students” (Woods-Warrior, 2017, p. 869). They serve more than “300,000 students annually,” of which 60% of the students are the first in their families to attend higher education (Taylor, 2010, as cited in Woods-Warrior, 2017, p. 869). While only 59% of students who “begin seeking a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year institution complete that degree within 6 years” (in 2014), those for Black students are lower (33% from 2001 – 2004 at nearly half of the 37 HBCUs surveyed) (Woods-Warrior, 2017, p. 870).

The first year of a student’s study in college is critical for a number of reasons. How they do then may set the tone for their continuing performance. Many also decide to drop out within the first year, so retention is critical. “In Noel-Levitz’s (2011) most recent report on student retention practices, five of the 10 most effective retention strategies cited for 4-year institutions involve some degree of focus on increasing student engagement.” (Woods-Warrior, 2017, p. 873) The influences of parental levels of education, socioeconomic status, and academic ability and outcomes all contributing to decisions on persistence. (Woods-Warrior, 2017, p. 879) Pre-college conditions, enrollment decisions, acculturating into model student behaviors through Community of Learning (CoL) experiences, engagement with extra curricular activities, increased faculty-student interactions, increased peer-student interactions, reinforcement of positive beliefs and motivations for “academic and career outcomes,” “actualization of reinforced beliefs and motivation for academic and career outcomes,” all feeding into the persistence decision (Woods-Warrior, 2017, p. 880). The author makes the point that HBCU institutions need to support “academic momentum and timely completion, rather than merely working toward increased completion rates” (Woods-Warrior, 2017, p. 892).

Kennedy E. Umunadi and Nwachukwu Prince Ololube’s “Blended Learning and Technological Development in Teaching and Learning” (Ch. 44) highlights the various dependencies on the environments of developing countries in their adoption of new learning technologies. Within this context, the authors engage a range of theories and methods as a precursor to updates to teaching and learning methods in Nigeria. (Such public thinking work can be highly critical in bridging societies into new methods of achieving their objectives.)

Michael Ullyot’s “Brevity is the Soul of Wit: Twitter in the Shakespeare Classroom” (Ch. 45) describes one instructor’s experience in an introductory course on William Shakespeare; this course included the use of Twitter to pose brief questions about the texts. The author used the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) to measure the learners’ perceptions of the course over multiple years and found variant responses.

Yvonne Pigatt and James Braman’s “Increasing Student Engagement through Virtual Worlds: A Community College Approach in a Diversity Course” (Ch. 46) describes the use of Second Life® virtual world for a “Diversity in a Technological Society” course in order to benefit from gamification features. As part of this course, the teacher set up building spaces to represent certain studied topics of interest. The learning schedule involved various classes during which learners would set up the digital spaces to express some aspect of the course studies (Pigatt & Braman, 2017, p. 937).

Moussa Tankari’s “Cultural Orientation Differences and their Implications for Online Learning Satisfaction” (Ch. 47) builds off of sociocultural learning theory. The basic research question is about whether personal cultural orientations are more aligned with online learning satisfaction. Some of the findings? Lower power distances, which is “situation-dependent and is to some extent dictated by the pedagogical practices of online instructors,” is an important variable in satisfaction with online learning (Tankari, 2017, p. 068). High and low collectivism did not seem to affect online learning satisfaction “with technology/support, course content, interaction with instructor, and learner self-assessment…” (Tankari, 2017, p. 971), based on both an ANOVA and qualitative research. There was also no significant difference with online learning satisfaction based on uncertainty avoidance (Tankari, 2017, pp. 975 - 980). There were mixed findings with low and high masculinity, and other interesting findings.

Stephen Oyeyemi Adenle and Jennifer N.L. Ughelu’s “Utilization of Instructional Media and Academic Performance of Students in Basic Science: A Case Study of Education District V1 of Lagos State” (Ch. 48) suggests that for physics, chemistry, biology, and math (termed basic science) that there are benefits of using of properly designed instructional media to benefit learners. The recommendations seem a little basic and more about common sense.

One of the more engaging works has a daring assertion: hip-hop based education should be harnessed as a way to motivate and engage learners. For example, a “rap cypher and battle is a lyrical debate between two artists through the use of music, poetry, storytelling, and critique as a means to establish dominance in the argument” (Covington, Allen, & Lewis, 2017, p. 1012).

Azure C. Covington, Ayana Allen, and Chance W. Lewis’s “Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy and Hip-Hop Based Education: A Professional Development Framework in Rap Cypher and Battle to Promote Student Engagement and Academic Achievement” (Ch. 49) suggest that a culturally sustaining pedagogy, based on the ideas of Paris & Alim, 2014, may be a powerful way to engage learners and to speak with them in a language and style of their preference and understanding. It is about using what sparks their excitement. This is an affirmation of the learner-centered approach.

This approach is highly appealing, but this would require a fairly complex skill set for instructors (how to strike the right tone and avoid causing offense), and there is a sense of risk in cultural appropriation. (Would learners feel manipulated?) Also, this approach may be more appropriate for some ages than others.

Iolanda Garcia, Begoña Gros, and Ingrid Noguera’s “Supporting Learning Self-Regulation through a PLE: Dealing with the Time Management Dimension” (Ch. 50) suggests that personal learning environments (PLEs) may benefit from building time management in for users, to improve their self-management. This work is well-informed by both theory and the research literature, and the authors reinforce the importance of learner self-efficacy and the positive effect of that on increased learner risk-taking and chance-taking in their studies.

Evriklea Dogoriti and Jenny Pange’s “Considerations for Online English Language Learning: The Use of Facebook in Formal and Informal Settings in Higher Education” (Ch. 51) shows how Facebook usage may reinforce communication skills. The co-authors draw on prior research and thinking based on Network Based Language Teaching (NBLT) in their work. They showcase how harnessing SNSes seamlessly within LMSes may advance the learning work.

Szu-Yu Chen and Natalya A. Lindo’s “Teachers Can Play Too: Teacher-Child Relationships, Social-Emotional Development, and Academic Engagement” (Ch. 52) focuses on the importance of meeting learners where they are at. In the case of children, in the various developmental stages, those who would teach them well should be able to maintain positive relationships with them and to engage them in play. A more formalize definition of play is as “a spontaneous, enjoyable, voluntary, and non-goal-directed activity for children” (Chen & Lindo, 2017, p. 1079).

The criticality of the connection between teachers and children for the children’s socio-emotional development affects “children’s academic engagement” (Chen & Lindo, 2017, p. 1076). Teachers can facilitate play as therapy for children to better address the emotional needs of children and to potentially lessen challenging or problematic classroom behaviors. To these ends, these co-authors call for more “research on humanistic play-based professional development training models” (Chen & Lindo, 2017, p. 1091).

Kawtar Tani and Andrew Gilbey’s “Predicting Academic Success for Business and Computing Students” (Ch. 53) provides a unique research case to better understand the pre- and post-enrollment data factors that contribute to success for business and computing students. These findings can inform administrators, faculty, and staff about which students for whom to provide more support and at which phases in their studies. The factors explored include demographic features, whether learners are domestic or international, and the first year GPA.

In Developing Countries…

One of the main rationales for being open about publishing works from a variety of technologies is that the world does not advance together in lock-step. Different countries involve people groups with different experiences and different economies and different cultures, and they adopt new methods (and create their own) at different times.

Ogunlade B. Olusola’s “Promoting Instructional Technology for Effective and Efficient Academic Performance in Nigerian Schools” (Ch. 54) shows some of the early thinking going into the adoption of instructional technologies to enhance learning, in a context of budgetary limits. To these ends, the author lays down two principles to help in the setup and use of instructional technologies in classrooms: “Effective learners actively process lesson content” and “Effective use of instructional technology should be built around students (sic) knowledge and experiences and be grounded in meaningful contexts” (Olusola, 2017, p. 1119).

Helen Yeh Wai Man’s “An Investigation of the Relationship of Motivation, Attitudes and Environment: Two Hong Kong ESL Learners’ Experience” (Ch. 55) consists of a biographical analysis of two ESL learners of the chapter’s author, one of Filipino origin and one of Chinese origin, to better understand their experiences of studying English. This research was conducted in the context of apparently declining standards of English in H.K. (Man, 2017, p. 1126) The main point seems to be that learner motivation has to be maintained at each phase of learning, that the target learning culture has to be appealing, and that learners have to feel positively in order to retain—or they will be lost in the learning pipeline.

Patrícia Brandalise Scherer Bassani’s “Virtual Learning Communities: Interaction in Blended Learning using Web 2.0 Tools” (Ch. 56) reflects on how to create and maintain effective virtual learning communities using Social Web tools. This work shows an empathic and observant approach to the humanness of learners and how they may be fragile and turn away permanently from some learning sequences based on their experiences. Based on two cases, Bassani offers five strategies as “the use of a pedagogical approach based on cooperation; the focus on the selection of learning spaces that promote the interaction between students; the mixing of oriented collaborative activities in the VLE (virtual learning environment) and the promotion of the use of social software, articulating prescriptive learning systems and emergent learning networks; the use of Web 2.0 tools in a PLE perspective; and the use of folksonomies to follow up the contents students produce on the Web” (2017, p. 1140).

Murtaza Ozdemir’s “Practices and Attitudes of Students and Teachers using iPads in High School Mathematics Classes” (Ch. 57) offers an insightful look at one school’s experience using iPads in high school mathematics courses. This research involved five teachers and 80 students at a charter school in New Jersey. In lieu of typical class materials, the students used iPads with enriched multimedia contents, and then the learners responded to survey questions about their experiences. Many of the participants suggested that iPads were not necessarily more helpful to their learning of math than traditional methods (Ozdemir, 2017, p. 1168), and some were discouraged by the difficulty of typing math formulas and symbols on the iPad (p. 1171). The devices were sometimes distractive in class. There were benefits as well, such as having the learning contents available in a portable way. The author suggests the need to be thoughtful in adopting technology solutions and emphasizes the importance of conducting a needs analysis first.

Grace O. Onodipe’s “Engaging and Empowering Dual Enrollment Students: A Principles of Economics Course Example” (Ch. 58) focuses on dual enrollment students—or high school students who are also taking college courses for credit (to advance them through higher education and so in part save on government subsidies on college tuition for its state residents). This work describes the uses of multiple cobbled methods and technologies--classroom response systems used on mobile devices, peer instruction, and flipped classrooms—for an ECON2100 course. One of the benefits: being able to head off learner misconceptions right away before erroneous learning is encoded into long-term memory (Onodipe, 2017, p. 1190).

Eric Bernstein, Sarah A. McMenamin, and Michael C. Johanek’s “Authentic Online Branching Simulations: Promoting Discourse around Problems of Practice” (Ch. 59) is an insightful work about designed learning for complex problem-solving through online branching simulations (as authentic learning experiences). Online branching simulations are described as providing standardized learning experiences:

The simulations can be implemented as whole group synchronous activities, small group synchronous activities, or individual asynchronous activities. The online branching simulation addresses both the needs of student learners for engagement, authenticity, and low risk experiences that reflect what they will experience in practice post-graduation. However its greatest success may rest in the ability of the class to discuss, debrief, as well as learn and evolve from the decisions of others. Through the sharing and exchanging of ideas, students begin to understand that there are multiple ways to address a problem of practice and that often times there is no one ‘right’ solution. This can become a transformative learning experience for students. (Bernstein, McMenamin, & Johanek, 2017, p. 1212)

Branching simulations, if facilitated effectively, can be highly effective for complex learning and decision-making.

T. Scott Bledsoe, Dave Harmeyer, and Shuang Frances Wu’s “Utilizing Twitter and #Hashtags toward Enhancing Student Learning in an Online Course Environment” (Ch. 60) explores the affordances and enablements of custom #hashtags for interactive short-text conversations used in an online graduate psychology course. These were used to set up personal learning networks to enhance their skills and professional progress. Using grounded theory, they made observations of their experiences and progress, and they identified four themes: “access to information, communication, class engagement, and general feedback” (Bledsoe, Harmeyer, & Wu, 2017, p. 1217). They identified nine suggestions on how to improve the use of Twitter and #hashtagged conversations for learning purposes.

Luka Ngoyi and L.J. Sandy Malapile’s “Social Presence and Student Engagement in Online Learning” (Ch. 61) define engagement in multiple dimensions: “skills engagement, participation/interaction engagement, emotional engagement, and performance engagement” (Ngoyi & Malapile, 2017, p. 1229). Based on theory and others’ research, the authors suggest ways to increase student presence and group sociality—to enhance learner engagement in collaborative learning experiences.

Youssef Harrath and Hadeel Alobaidy’s “Impact of Social Networking Sites on Student Academic Performance: The Case of University of Bahrain” (Ch. 62) explores student usage of social networking services and possible effects on their academic performance—based on an online survey with 628 respondents. The research instrument was comprised of 21 questions representing eight variables “that identify the interest that the students draw from SNS” (Harrath & Alobaidy, 2017, p. 1238). Among the surveyed learners at the University of Bahrain, the most popular social media sites were the following, in descending order: YouTube, Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (Harrath & Alobaidy, 2017, p. 1244). Their time spent on social media in general tended to be about 1 – 3 hours only, so apparently on the low end in comparison to college students in the West. Mobile devices seemed to be the most popular ones used to access social media, followed by laptops, then iPads/tablets, then desktop devices, and a few using their Smart TVs (Harrath & Alobaidy, 2017, p. 1245). The most common uses of SNSes were the following, in descending order: downloading music and videos, blogging / chatting, communicating with teachers and “class fellows,” posting photos, “creating polls, quizzes, or surveys,” “submitting articles to websites,“ and others. This research also included some somewhat noisy correlations.

Social media are seen as contributing to international students’ sense of global life satisfaction, and by extension, to their academic performance in the next work. Here, social media serve as transmitters of social knowledge or “socialization agents,” which help overseas students make sense of their world. In Neete Saha and Aryn C. Karpinski’s “The Influence of Social Media on International Students’ Global Life Satisfaction and Academic Performance” (Ch. 63), the authors study 331 international students and their use of both social media in general and of Skype™ in particular. Saha and Karpinski explore the high-stress lives of international students who are engaging in a non-native language oftentimes and competing in a rigorous learning environment. They write:

The results indicated that both mediation models were supported. Social media and Skype™ use were positively predictive of satisfaction with life, and there was a positive relationship between satisfaction with life and academic performance. These findings have implications for university staff and administrators who need to be aware of the positive influence social media use has on international students’ perceptions of their experiences, which in turn can positively impact their academic performance (Saha & Karpinski, 2017, p. 1255)

The authors suggest that increasing uses of social media means a greater satisfaction with life (Saha & Karpinski, 2017, p. 1267), but they do not specify a point at which such uses may begin to lessen satisfaction with life. They write: “Skype™ use was found to have a positive impact on international students’ satisfaction with life, which indicates that as Skype™ use increases, so does their satisfaction” (Saha & Karpinski, 2017, p. 1257). Into infinity? Then, there is the question of how much school officials may suggest that international students engage on social media, or what the practical effects of this research should be. Based on survey research, Emad Abu-Shanab and Heyam Al-Tarawneh’s “The Influence of Social Networks on High School Students’ Performance” (Ch. 64) also finds salutary effects of social networks on Jordanian high school students’ academic performance. The dimensions explored include performance, entertainment, health, isolation, social network connections, and “consuming time index” (Abu-Shanab & Al-Tarawneh, 2017, p. 1281).

Syed Raza Ali Bokhari and Iqbal Ahmed Panhwar’s “Understanding Online Cultural Learning Styles and Academic Performance of Management Students in an Ethnic Context” (Ch. 65) asks a basic question: What are the statistically significant relationships among various cultural dimensions and multicultural learning styles on student academic performance? The research subjects were MBA students at Bahria University in Pakistan. In their local context, the educational system is built on their Matriculation Education System, and “learning occurs by means of rote memorization while studying out of context textbooks written by foreign authors” (Bokhari & Panhwar, 2017, p. 1286). Per Geert Hofstede (1997), the authors use a cultural model of a person as comprising universal elements of human nature, specific group-based elements based on culture, and individual elements based on the person, such as personality (which comes from both biological inheritance and learning) (as cited in Bokhari & Panhwar, 2017, p. 1289). Beyond Hofstede’s cultural dimensions model, they also used the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) and Cultural Dimensions of Learning Framework (CDLF).

The co-authors propose a hypothetical model of cultural learning, in which a learner’s cultural dimensions inform how the understand and engage the world (their epistemological beliefs, their social beliefs, and their temporal perceptions). Those factors are thought to affect their multicultural learning style and, ultimately, their academic performance (Bokhari & Panhwar, 2017, p. 1296). They write:

It was found that epistemological beliefs and temporal perceptions dimensions of culture exhibited a positive relationship with multicultural learning styles; the social relationship dimension showed (a) negative relationship, while total effect on student academic performance across was relatively similar across all models (Bokhari & Panhwar, 2017, p. 1285).

The authors include some predictive insights in their work about what various features may mean for student learning.

Norman Vaughan, Martin Sacher, Neepin Auger, and Mavis Sacher’s “A Blended Approach to Canadian First Nations Education: The SCcyber E-Learning Community” (Ch. 66) describes a blended learning approach based on Chickering and Gamson’s much-studied Seven Principles of Effective Teaching (1999). These principles focus on encouraging “contact between students and teachers…reciprocity and cooperation among students…active learning…prompt feedback…time on task…(the communication of) high expectations…and (respect for) diverse talents and ways of learning” (Chickering & Gamson, 1999, as cited in Vaughan, Sacher, Auger, & Sacher, 2017, p. 1312). To meet the needs of their First Nations learners at the Sunchild First Nation Reserve in Alberta, Canada, the program organizers set up real-space mentors at local learning centers and online teachers (“who provide synchronous tutorials through the use of a Web-based learning management system and conferencing tool” (Vaughan, Sacher, Auger, & Sacher, 2017, p. 1308). The focus seems to be on having face-to-face and personal support to support student engagement and learning performance. The authors share their applied insights in photos and evocative descriptions.

Learner loyalty to their larger communities may be harnessed to increase learner connectivity to higher education by harnessing community service, in Michelle D. Huddleston’s “Impact of Community Engagement in Higher Education” (Ch. 67). Here, learners may be encouraged to contribute to their own communities through student clubs and extra credit. Community service is less formal than service-based learning (which is often more rigorously tied to a course and formal degree, leading to professional practice). (Huddleston, 2017, p. 1331) From these engagements, learners not only gain knowledge and employment skills, but they may relate their higher education to warm considerations of their community (Huddleston, 2017, p. 1330).

In their study of international students in international English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, Juanjuan Zhao, and Dana Funywe Ng’s “Understanding Language Experiences of International ESL Students in U.S. Classrooms” (Ch. 68) advocates for more targeted support for international students. Based on surveys and focus groups, the authors found that these students experienced new subject area courses as requiring “learning a new language” (Zhao & Ng, 2017, p. 1358). The research subjects expressed the need for more support for understanding academic writing forms and conventions, the skills for the acquisition of new vocabulary, and more extracurricular activities to practice English. This practical and astute work is student-centered and provides a lived sense from the students’ experiences.

Ya-Chun Shih’s “Weaving Web 2.0 and Facial Expression Recognition into the 3D Virtual English Classroom” (Ch. 69) describes a study in which learners interact with each other through multiple audio-video channels, with representations of themselves as 3D avatars and as individuals behind a web cam. This way, while the interactions are through digital avatars representing the learners, the emotions of the persons behind the respective avatars are captured also. To achieve these effects, the instructor cobbles various tools for capabilities and effects, in an impressive mash-up. The author’s precise writing and her sharing of screenshots to capture the experience is effective. Here, the virtual and the real are brought together explicitly, and the fictionalized rendered world is grounded in the real. In this blending, there is something of the real and something of the virtual.

Michael O. Adeyeye, Adebola G. Musa, and Adele Botha’s “Problem with Multi-video Format M-Learning Applications” (Ch. 70) describes an effort to use a mix of HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript to enable more uniform playing of videos on mobile devices. (This work does not seem to be directly related to learner engagement although it does make the point of technological and other dependencies required for smooth learner engagement.) The authors make a powerful point that many in developing countries and elsewhere do use mobile devices to access online learning, so the m-learning aspect is critical to design to and to test for online learning efficacy.

Misha Chakraborty’s “Learners’ Perception of Engagement in Online Learning” (Ch. 71) captures insights from semi-structured interviews with eight participants at a Research 1 university in the American Southwest, and “online course documents, email exchanges, and discussion transcripts” (Chakraborty, 2017, p. 1440). This author summarizes 11 engagement strategies, their advantages and disadvantages, and their implementation, in a very useful and practical table (p. 1451). The strategies include the following: “real world oriented class activities; scope to practice creative thinking and innovation; considering learners’ personal goals; avoiding ambiguous terms e.g., ‘good writing skills’ and using specific instructions e.g. ‘writing with no grammatical mistakes’; specific feedback in a timely manner; including audio feedback; including assignments that help learners think critically; encourage peer reviews; supervise content focused interactions among learners, instructors, technology and content; include introductory video with LMS and class information, (and) provide required resources in class website” (Chakraborty, 2017, p. 1451).

Monica VanDieren’s “Effectiveness of Online Advising on Honors Student Retention and Engagement” (Ch. 72) describes the use of Google Apps for Education for information sharing to support online academic advising.

Libraries may play an important role in increasing learner engagement, in Susan Kowalski’s “Increased Engagement: Exponential Impact on School Library” (Ch. 73), to help their patrons achieve Learning4Life [the program by The American Association of School Librarians (AASL).] The objectives for the program include the four main points: “Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge; Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge; share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society; (an) pursue personal and aesthetic growth” (Kowalski, 2017, p. 1482).

Aryn C. Karpinski, Anthony V. Shreffler, Paul A. Kirschner, Patricia A. Albert, and Carrie A. Tomko’s “United States and European Students’ Social-Networking Site Activities and Academic Performance” (Ch. 74) begins with a basic research question: “Is there a relationship between various SNS activities and academic performance for US and EU students?” (2017, p. 1498). Based on multiple regressions, they found that using social networking services (SNSes) for school and career were “positively predictive of Grade Point Average (GPA) for both US an d European students” (Karpinski, Shreffler, Kirschner, Albert, & Tomko, 2017, p. 1492); however, for American students, those who used SNSes for “staying in touch with online friends” was negatively predictive of GPA (p. 1492). The authors also describe direct and utilitarian uses of social media to advance education and careers, to positive results. For example, social media may be used for collecting information than mere social engagement (Karpinski, Shreffler, Kirschner, Albert, & Tomko, 2017, pp. 1509 - 1510).

Tomesha Manora Farris, Gaige Johnson, Denise Ross, Margaret Uwayo, Brandi Fontenot, and Garratt D. Warrilow’s “Community Service Learning: Recruiting Psychology Majors for Service in a Low-Income Community” (Ch. 75) makes the case for bringing students studying psychology into community-based service learning. They argue that those in their field do not engage learners sufficiently with supporting those living in poverty, with low socio-economic status (SES). To that end, they describe the START (Service, Teaching, and Research Training) model, designed to

…recruit and train psychology majors to work in low-income communities by engaging them in service, research, and teaching activities in a middle school located in a high-poverty community. For one semester, psychology undergraduate and graduate students collaborated on a literacy and classroom management project with a local middle school in a low-income community. (Farris, Johnson, Ross, Uwayo, Fontenot, & Warrilow, 2017, p. 1520)

This program serves as a way to expand learner engagement into the larger community and into pro-social efforts.

Cynthia J. Benton’s “Is This Your Best Work? Complications and Limitations of Online Instruction for High Quality Student Engagement” (Ch. 76) emphasizes the importance of interactivity opportunities and constant support by those teaching online to ensure that learners are well supported to give their best during their studies. In this work, she draws from a range of data sources: author journaling, student journaling and reflections on course assignments, student evaluative comments about the synchronous course and particular assignments, and the research literature.

In their thought piece, Melissa Roberts Becker, Karen McCaleb, and Credence Baker’s “Paradigm Shift toward Student Engagement in Technology Mediated Courses” (Ch. 77) proposes various strategies to spark students’ “emotional engagement” and participation in learning communities in online learning.

In answer to Stefania Manca and Maria Ranieri’s “Does Facebook Provide Educational Value? An Overview of Theoretical and Empirical Advancements of Affordances and Critical Issues” (Ch. 78), the authors conclude that the social networking site Facebook provides learning value. The most common educational uses of Facebook in education include the following:

1) Facebook and academic performance; 2) Facebook as a communication tool in education; 3) Facebook as a learning environment; 4) Facebook for specific learning purposes and on learning processes. (Manca & Ranieri, 2017, p. 1574)

This work explores the mixed literature on this topic and is a helpful foundational work for research sources on Facebook usage in education. In this space, there is a lack of defined pedagogies for how to harness this tool for learning. This work also includes a thoughtful table about the “Technical and pedagogical affordances of Facebook” (p. 1580).


Student engagement is widely considered to be critical for learning, and in the optimal contexts, the learning should bring into play every aspect of the student, to motivate and support and encourage.

Student Engagement and Participation: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications is a collection of works that seem to have been published earlier in edited collections and / or authored texts, whose authors maybe rewrote a part to update to 2017 and which then was released as part of an edited collection without named editors. (This is par for the course for publishers.) As such, the assemblage reads like stand-alone works each with different local contexts and methods and focuses. The power of a truly global publisher is on show in this work, though, with unique and diverse local insights and points-of-view.

There geographical backgrounds of the researchers / writers are diverse. The respective authors of these 78 chapters hail from a range of universities around the world, including Andorra, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Jordan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Niger, Norway, Pakistan, Singapore, Spain, United Arab Emirates (UAE), United Kingdom, and others. In the U.S., the institutions represented include public and private universities, a middle school, and an elementary school, as well as professional business and organizations. It helps to consider learner engagement from a range of perspectives and experiences. Even if this is not the playbook for how to foster and maintain learner engagement, this is an effective start.

About the Author

Shalin Hai-Jew works as an instructional designer at Kansas State University. She may be reached at
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