Tools of Engagement: Technologies and Strategies for All Learning Styles

How do you motivate online learners?

It’s an age-old question that continues to stump online instructors as well as the managers of distance education programs trying to solve the attrition problem that continues to drag down this otherwise thriving segment of higher education.

Perhaps one reason for poor online retention rates, says Dr. Curt Bonk, professor of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University, is that instructors are not engaging students with the technologies they love nor are they taking full advantage of the online tools and applications that have become so readily available.

During the recent online seminar Creatively Engaging Online Students: Models and Activities, Bonk explained how instructors can use “low-risk, low-cost, low-time activities” that are relatively easy to incorporate into a lesson, but make a big impact on student engagement and learning.

Using his TEC-VARIETY Model, which is an acronym that stands for Tone, Encouragement, Curiosity, Variety, Autonomy, Relevance, Interactive, Engagement, Tension, and Yields products, Bonk outlined a wide range of web technologies and resources that address each of the TEC-VARIETY components to make a difference in the online learning experience. Some of the tools he discussed include: Jing, Screenr, Slideshare, Animoto, Google Docs, and YackPack.

Bonk also showed how different learning styles can be addressed using what he calls the R2D2 Method, which thankfully has nothing to do with Star Wars and actually stands for Read (auditory and visual learners), Reflect (reflective learners), Display (visual learners) and Do (tactile, kinesthetic, and exploratory learners).

Resources that address the R2D2 Method range from blogs and video blogs (or vlogs as they’re sometimes called), to wikis, podcasts, concept maps, online timelines, Flash, 3-D visualization, surveys, and map mash-ups.

Although it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and at times intimidated, by all the new resources available today, Bonk encourages experimentation. He also recommends enlisting the help of students to be “the cool resource provider” by finding and presenting that day’s relevant online video clip.