Nudging: an approach to enhance online student engagement

Year: 2018

Author: Redmond, Petrea, Brown, Alice, Basson, Marita, Lawrence, Jill, Megan, Axelsen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Higher education is challenged by the implications of technology-enhanced learning and teaching. Those institutions that have adopted this type of learning and teaching are, however, also impacted by the digital disruption caused by that adoption. Not only have online technologies changed the role and character of teaching, learning, and educational interactions but there has also been a significant impact on student learning and engagement. Student engagement, a benchmark for quality teaching, typically refers to the time and effort students devote to their learning.  Student engagement is critical to motivating students in the learning process: the more students are motivated to learn, the more likely they are to be successful in their studies. An emerging area of research in student engagement practice is that which links teacher communication behavior to student engagement in online settings. Such research explores questions such as how to manage student expectations and achievement best while also ensuring optimal teaching and learning outcomes through quality student engagement. There is also a focus on the need to understand student engagement and the factors that influence that engagement and its contextual nuances, as well as the need to develop strategies to engage the non-engaged.
To explore such challenges, as well as the links between teacher communication behavior and student engagement in online settings, a learning and teaching project was conducted in a regional university. The study investigated the application of a nudging intervention in three large undergraduate Nursing, Education, and Urban Planning courses. Nudging in this context was digital communications to the students to get their attention and to encourage them into action. In an attempt to improve student engagement and assist students in making better decisions about their learning, course examiners trialed a nudging process that used specific nudging messages via electronic communication in the virtual classroom. The objective was to use a ‘just in time, just for you’ perspective. These nudges occurred at the beginning of the semester and before assessment due dates and were related to getting started critical resources and assessment.  The findings suggest that there is widespread support for nudges if they are used to steer students in directions that are consistent with students’ interests or values. In this presentation, the rationale, context, research design, findings and resulting pedagogical principles will be explained in detail.