Increasing Student Engagement at the Course Level

Students in Class

Challenge: Getting students to do the reading

Hobson et al. (2004) report that, on average, only 20-30% of students do the assigned reading for a given day of class day. This is right in line with what the humanities chair, Gigi Derballa of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, was seeing in her Critical Thinking courses. She was struggling to get students to engage with their materials, and students were showing up unprepared. “We liked the textbook we were using, but it was clear that the students weren’t reading it,” said Derballa. Derballa knew she wanted to go digital to bring in more interactivity, but she also knew that not all ebooks were created equal.

Solution: An interactive text with built-in application and assessments

“As soon as I learned about Soomo I was ready to jump in. It’s the future of learning,” said Derballa, “and you can’t beat it for the price.” Soomo worked with the college to design a custom, interactive webtext. Highly engaging content like videos, infographics, and news articles were paired with hundreds of questions to create a webtext that had a balance of exposition and application, all inside a single platform. With the new webtext, students read shorter expositions of critical- thinking concepts and move directly into opportunities to analyze and synthesize the information presented. Questions at the end of each page test for comprehension and mastery of concepts.

Notes On Critical Thinking Critical Thinking course customized for AB Tech
I absolutely loved the webtext! It was written so well! It was easy to relate to and understand, but was loaded with great info. It was easily my favorite part of my class.
AB Tech Student

Results: Students show up prepared with a better understanding of key concepts

After the course was implemented, analytics over several terms showed that the median completion percentage of all questions was 91%. So instead of less than one-third of students being prepared on any given day, virtually every student is now showing up fully prepared for class. “I’m always amazed at the level of participation in a course using the Soomo webtext vs. a class that is not. The difference is very obvious,” said Derballa. “It’s also helped us create better consistency in how the class is taught.”

I can honestly say this has been the best online book and material I have ever used. I love the fact that it's so interactive and the interactive portions are perfectly spaced out. As soon as I got tired of reading, there was either a video, multiple- choice problem, or short response to complete. It made the chapters go by quickly and definitely made me stop to evaluate my critical thinking in regards to the subject.
AB Tech Student

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