Over the summer, a few colleagues and I had the opportunity to present at the 2008 Higher Education Web Symposium, held at the University of Pennsylvania. Our topic was How to Engage Today’s Students: Portals, Instructional Technology & Learning Simulations.
My portion of the presentation was an overview of what we called the New Learner (not the best term, but we liked it better than Digital Native, Millennial, and especially Learner 2.0). Lou Metzger, Jason Lehman, and Erin Wyher followed up with specific examples of how we’re trying to engage this demographic throughout their activities at the school.
Overall, the presentation went well, though we ran long and didn’t have a lot of time to hear ideas from other schools. We also got some feedback that the examples were too Wharton-centric. It’s true that much of the content was Wharton and/or Penn-related, but I hope that didn’t obscure our underlying points:
- Making small changes or adding modules can promote engagement—you don’t have to AJAX-ify or re-write your existing web applications.
- Integrate existing information and present it in the context of a task at hand.
- Animations, avatars, bells, and whistles don’t always translate into a better student experience.
- Buzzwords can distract from what’s important.