In a recent post, we asked readers of the Cengage Learning Blog: What tools and activities spark engagement in your course? 

Below, we’ve shared the results of the survey. The top answer? Class discussions (at 66%), closely followed by video clips (63%).


Strategies, Tools, and Techniques that Spark Engagement


Over half of our 65 respondents use group projects (55%) and case studies (54%). Icebreaker activities and games for learning are implemented in 45% of our respondents’ courses. Other results include: online discussion forums (32%); simulations (20%); podcast or video lectures (20%); role-playing activities (17%); polls and “clicker” activities (17%); and social media activities (12%).

Responses in the “Other” category included:

  • Good questions
  • Engaging guest speakers
  • Use of software to enhance lessons
  • Class exercises with problems to solve
  • PowerPoint slides and Blackboard
  • Voki (a service that allows you to create custom avatars)


Meanwhile, in a survey that Cengage Learning recently distributed to students, we asked: How do your professors get you engaged in your classes? Here are a few of their responses:

  • “Class discussion is really the best way professors get students involved. It is unfortunate however that many professors merely lecture, which is not very engaging at all.”
  • “The way in which they communicate—if we have activities, making the work tangible.”
  • “By talking about things I relate to.”
  • “I had some teachers break the class into small groups to discuss and debate something we might be learning.”
  • “They ask questions, ask for volunteers for demonstrations and randomly call on you to answer a question, which keeps me alert and focused.”


By reviewing the results of these two surveys, we’ve observed that both instructors and students regard communication as an essential part of what sparks and maintains engagement in a course. They also appreciate topics that are timely and relevant to their lives and interests.

Have you found this to be the case in your classes? How do you bring discussions into your course in a meaningful way? Do you have any ideas for bringing relevant, trending topics into your class, even if your course content does not directly center around current issues and events?

What tools and strategies work to engage your students? Are you surprised by any of the student responses we shared?  Voice your opinion below.