M. Campbell, R. Lucio, M. Detres

Saint Leo University (UNITED STATES)
The digital era brings with it intense competition for student attention and focus and educators are constantly searching for creative ways to facilitate student engagement (Britt, 2014; Lee & Hannafin, 2016). Traditional lectures, made with visual aids like slides and handouts, can be met with resistance and assignments can suffer similar responses. Increasingly, higher education is shifting to a more student driven learning experience that happen in parallel to the classroom and requires higher expectations for self-driven learning (Barrio-García, Arquero, & Romero-Frías, 2015).

Efforts to promote engagement have been developed in both on ground (Chaudhry & Malik, 2014; Abel & Campbell, 2008) and in online / virtual environments (Filies, Yassin, & Frantz, 2016) to varying degrees of success. As the literature grows to explore innovative approaches to engagement in the expanding technology of the digital age, educators are challenged to incorporate this evidence into their pedagogy.

The focus of this presentation is to explore the role that technology may play in promoting engagement for students. In the evolving space of online education in Social Work, it is imperative that educators find effective strategies to promote student engagement (Blackmon, 2013). Digital white boards have become a popular and unique tool to gather data, share information and promote interactive discussion and dialogue (Ipek & Sozcu, 2016). We will explore the use of a digital whiteboard as a component for an assignment, as a medium for assignment assessment and tool to bridge an interactive virtual community café. We utilized the Virtual Community Café (VCC) as an electronic adaptation of the World Café model to engage the students in a qualitative group session which provided qualitative feedback on the assignment and the role technology played in promoting student engagement as compared to arguably more passive discussion question formats.

In this presentation we will review how the assignment was converted to a more interactive format using the digital whiteboard technology and then we will discuss the qualitative findings from the VCC. Finally, we will present on the use of the VCC as a tool to elicit feedback. The literature is scant on the application of this technology facilitate community engagement. Principles of community engagement and collaboration are of interest to higher education as it grapples with the realities of a shifting student body and explores novel ways to engage them in their learning. This presentation will explore the question: Does the use of technology (parallel engagement in electronic whiteboard) help to foster perceptions of engagement among a cohort of graduate social work students in an online program nested in a private liberal arts school (Saint Leo University)? Attention is paid to two novel applications of the digital whiteboard for education and facilitation of learning.

Through this presentation we will:
1. Describe the application of a digital whiteboard to one assignment
2. Identify lessons learned about the application of new technology in the virtual classroom
3. Explore the Virtual Community Café methodology for engaging feedback
4. Share the qualitative findings from a group of graduate students regarding the impact technology had on their learning and their sense of engagement.