STUDENT ENGAGEMENT: MORE THAN BELLS AND WHISTLES
Student engagement can be describe as the time, effort and energy students spent on all educational activities that enhance their ability to learn. To enhance and improve active student learning and thus student engagement, the Department of Mercantile Law, University of the Free State (UFS), South Africa participates in a project of the Centre for Teaching and Learning of the UFS. One of the aims of the project is to assist lecturers in developing innovate teaching methods and techniques to ensure student engagement in class. Through this project innovative, new teaching methods has been introduced. This was necessary, because lecturers must change their methods and style of teaching to keep up with the changing student body. Students today are used to fast access to information, fast access to entertainment and to be socially active on their cell phones, tablets, etc. They can no longer sit still in a class for an hour just listening to the voice of the lecturer. To ensure student engagement, the lecturer must promote participation of all students. Active student engagement is only possible if students are interested in what they are taught. After 20 years teaching the Law of Business Entities in a particular way (mainly the Socrates method), I started in the first semester of 2014 (February to June) by introducing a few changes to my own teaching. The idea for the first change came from a paper from the EDULEARN13, namely to play music in class before the start of the lecturer when doing all the administration. While the music plays, I also put on a self-playing power point presentation of photos and pictures that add to what we will be doing in class. The visual aspects are further enhanced by using pictures on the power point or prezzi presentations of the lecture, to ensure that visual learning takes place. As all students at the UFS have access to Blackboard, our on-line platform to all modules/courses, students are also engaged through the electronic media they prefer. This platform is used to communicate with the students and audio recordings of all lectures are placed on Blackboard as well as the power point or prezzi presentation used in class. Students can thus go back and listen to the recording of the class and also download the power point or prezzi presentation. All presentations end with a cartoon about the work or the law in general. The students react very positive to this. These small chances already made a big difference in the attitude of the student, the atmosphere in class as well as the results from their first test. More different learning activities will be introduced in the rest of the module building on the foundation laid in the first semester.