Guest Contributor: Rochelle Beatty, Program Manager, Cengage Learning Peer-to-Peer Faculty Development and Consulting

As time goes by, my students are becoming more and more connected with and savvy about technology.

According to a survey of undergraduate college students conducted by ECAR (Grajek, 2011), students today use more technological devices and use them more frequently than in the past. They report that 87 percent of college students in 2011 owned laptops and 53 percent owned desktop computers. As well as a majority having a computer, 55 percent of these students also owned smartphones. As no surprise to me, the ECAR survey found that students liked using technology as part of their college instruction and felt the benefits in four ways: greater access to resources and progress reports, higher proficiency, more engaged and relevant learning opportunities, and unlimited ways to electronically connect with others.

Tinto (1999) states that when students feel connected to a course, they are less likely to withdraw. I have found that a great way to provide connection while building community is to incorporate technology into my courses wherever possible. By capitalizing on my students’ technological skills, I am able to provide various methods for students to access and engage with the content I want them to master, thus providing a dynamic connection to the course content. I have used Course Management Systems (CMS) as a way to supplement instruction through web links, uploaded documents or media, discussion posts, progress feedback, and more. There are many open source resources as well as publisher resources that can be used to create an interactive learning space in a CMS. Some open source resources that I find useful are: TEDTalks, PBS Video, Slideshare, YouTube, and TeacherTube.

Another way to build a connection early on with students is to send a welcome message in video format. I use Eyejot to create my welcome videos and send them out to students prior to the start of classes. Students like this connection and desire a continuation of connections with their peers and instructors. They also value having a voice in class. Using discussion posts as part of the CMS, allows me to extend the conversation beyond the classroom and helps students dive deeper into the content. It also gives the more timid students a platform for being heard. If you do not have access to a CMS, you might try using a website like for discussion. The comment thread aspect of this web tool allows students to create posts while viewing post from their peers. I like being able to have a visual of what we discussed to help reconnect with the in-class content. Here is an example of that web tool.

Another feature that appeals to today’s student is immediate feedback and progress reporting that technology allows. By creating or importing quizzes to a CMS, students are able to strive for excellence by practicing an assessment multiple times and possibly having assets and hints in place to guide their learning and correct mistakes before incorrect learning takes place. I have astonishing results when using an online homework system like WebAssign with my math students. The very first semester I implemented this strategy, the pass rate on my first test doubled compared to past results. I attribute their success to increased time on task, the ability to ask questions in place of the problem, and their motivation to master the content by watching and working through the tutorials provided by the program. The ability of students to always know their status in the course by viewing an online gradebook is also valuable. I find that my students ask about their progress in the course more often when they have access to updated reports.

Although I have talked mainly about using technology to extend the learning experience beyond the classroom, it can also be used in a face-to-face setting to accommodate for short attention spans. McKeachie (2014) notes that when lecture begins, students are paying close attention, but for most students that attention lasts for about 10 minutes. By using technology, I am able to chunk the time I have with my students into a series of 10-12 minute segments as opposed to one long hour. The ways I have used technology for chunking include: incorporating a video, using a Smartboard, assessing students using quizzing websites or clickers, eliciting questions or comments using student smartphones and electronic posts, and providing presentation access while I am presenting information.

The use of technology changes the learning experience from teacher-centered to student-centered (Jamil, 2011). The strategies I have discussed here are exactly what today’s students appreciate. Grajek (2011) states that students want their professors to use more technology including email, course management systems, e-books or e-textbooks, and presentation software, to name just a few. So, I encourage you to incorporate a new technology into your course this semester to connect with and retain your students.


Grajek, S.(2011).  “The Current State of College Students and Technology 2011.” Presentation at the 2011 EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research Symposium, Chicago, IL, July 29, 2011, available from //

Jamil, M. and Shah, J. (2011).  “Technology: Its Potential Effects on Teaching in Higher Education.“ New Horizons in Education, May2011, Vol. 59 Issue 1, p38-51, 14p, 9 Charts.

McKeachie, Wilbert J. and Svinicki, Marilla. 2014.  McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, Fourteenth Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Tinto, V.  (1999).  Taking Retention Seriously: Rethinking the First Year of College. NACADA Journal, v19 n2 p5-9 Fall 1999 


Prior to joining Cengage Learning, Rochelle was a mathematics instructor and faculty advisor. As a mathematics instructor, she has 17 years of experience at both the secondary and higher education levels, which ranges from differential equations to developmental mathematics. Rochelle’s expertise includes: math study skills, cognitive development in the mathematics classroom, graphing calculators, computer graphing programs and math anxiety. She has presented at several math conferences, such as AMATYC, NISOD, NCTM and RCML. Rochelle earned her A. A. at Northeastern Oklahoma A & M College-Miami, OK; B.S. and M.S. in Mathematics at Pittsburg State University-Pittsburg, KS; and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Leadership and Curriculum Development with an emphasis in Mathematics Education from the University of Oklahoma-Norman, OK. See some of Rochelle’s additional projects here

How do you integrate the use of various technologies into your classroom? Share your ideas below.