University of Victoria (CANADA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN11 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 5163-5169
ISBN: 978-84-615-0441-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Large classes are an apparently enduring aspect of many contemporary post-secondary institutions. One of the challenges of instructing large classes is combating the sense of alienation and apathy that can result if students feel that instructors have no idea who they are as individuals. One way of ameliorating such depersonalizing aspects of large classes is for instructors to make special efforts to learn and use the names of most or all the students in their classes.

A number of authors have commented on the difficulty or impracticality of learning all or most student names in the large classes that are typical of the first year courses of many post-secondary institutions. Although it is obviously more difficult and time-consuming to learn student names in a classes of 300 students than in classes with 30 students, microcomputer and internet technology can provide some aids in this task that were not previously available.

Students generally respond very positively when instructors make an effort to remember and use their names in large classes. Such use facilitates greater discussion, interaction and engagement in class, and students report feeling that using their names indicates that the instructor cares about them, and is dedicated to their learning. A less obvious benefit of learning student names is that this likely enhances the motivation and commitment of the instructor, as well as the students.

Although there are a variety of effective non-technological techniques for learning student names, new technologies such as Web-based databases and slideshow programs facilitate learning student names from photos by providing flexibility and efficiency in the collection, organization and display of digital student images.

This paper illustrates how Internet and computer-based technology can aid in the task of learning student’s names, and summarizes discusses advantages and disadvantages of a Web-based database as compared to microcomputer based slideshow programs. Evidence is presented that instructor use of student names is seen by many students as an important contribution to a positive learning environment, and the recruitment and retention benefits of identifying students by name in first year courses are discussed.
Engagement, personalization, large classes, first year, student motivation, recruitment, retention.