Bringing Experts into Class to Increase Student Engagement

How do we increase student engagement in a topic that is new to them? How do we promote collaboration between a class and an  invited guest/speaker?

Lecture hall with projected imageThese were the questions that I faced last term in preparing for the Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble to be in residence at Connecticut College as part of the Ammerman Center’s Colloquia Series focused on the “Body and Technology.” The Quince Ensemble uses technology to enhance or accompany their voices in performance. Our students would learn about these ideas by learning a new piece prior to their visit, rehearsing with the Quince Ensemble in a short rehearsal, and then performing it in concert together.

Since we would only have one rehearsal together for about 2 hours before the concert, we needed to find a way to make a connection with the new music and Quince well before the residency. We decided to web conference our choir rehearsal with the Quince Artistic Director, Kayleigh, who lived in New York City. The goals of the session were to receive feedback about our work on the choral piece, facilitate a connection between our students and the Quince Ensemble, and learn more about the work itself from Kayleigh. The resulting experience was very positive! Our students felt more connected to the experimental work which involved non-traditional singing techniques. Since they became more excited for the residency and worked even harder to prepare for it in the weeks ahead.

Do you have a guest speaker that will be coming into your class to share about their work or perhaps evaluate a class project? Why not create interest and “buy-in” by having them meet your students via a web conference before the visit? This maximizes their time at CC and students will be more prepared for their visit. Below is my advice for creating a successful web conferencing session between your students and a guest speaker.

  1. Set up a time with your speaker taking into consideration time zones. Suggest that they have a headset, microphone (the one attached to the earbuds is OK) and hard-wire ethernet connection, if possible.
  2. Prepare your speaker by providing background information on the course and the students involved. Establish an outline/agenda for the conversation.
  3. Prepare your students ahead of time. What questions would be appropriate to ask? What is the background of the speaker? What are the goals of the session? Remind them that they will be on camera, too and to look engaged.
  4. Find a room with a hardwire ethernet connection with quiet surroundings that will not interrupt the conversation. Contact Mike Dreimiller, Instructional Digital Media Specialist in the Instructional Technology Department for assistance.
  5. Borrow a web-conferencing kit from Mike Dreimiller.
  6. BEFORE the session, download Skype or Zoom (if you want to record it.) Create a login and add your guest as a contact.
  7. Do a dry-run without students. Find a colleague with a remote connection or someone in Instructional Technology Department to help test your connection, camera, mic, and lighting.
  8. Have a backup plan. If all else fails, can you do a conference call over the phone?
  9. After the session, ask your students what they gained from the conversation and how it will help prepare them for their future project or meeting.
  10. Take a selfie or screenshot and share it on social media. Share with the greater community the lessons or connections gained from this experience!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s