How Online Work Affects Engagement
One of the reasons we think that student engagement has become an increasingly popular topic is that we have lost some of our leverage over our students. We used to assign ‘work’ to our students with a reasonable expectation that they would be forced to do it themselves. Or, at the very least, with a small number of friends at a coffee shop.
That is no longer the case.
Any work that is done with access to the Internet is going to present a problem. A few years ago Chegg (an online homework site) bought the answer keys to many popular textbooks. In addition to this, students have been sharing answers to commonly asked questions for years on any number of other sharing websites. If your question has a printed answer, it’s now almost always easily available to students on the web.
The answers are RIGHT THERE. Seriously. I mostly don’t even use them to cheat. I just use them to check if i got the answer right. – A Student
Now, that’s cheating, I know. But they are awfully tempting. And, truth be told, they are incredibly useful to the learner. ‘Checking for answers’ is also a totally normal human behaviour. I check for answers every time I check a recipe to make sure I’ve got the measurements right. If a student is actually motivated to learn they are STILL going to use these websites, but only to confirm their work.
The key element is the engagement of the student, not their access to answers.
Look at the work you are asking students to do. What percentage of it comes from previously printed materials. Can you rearrange your questions so that students can work WITH the homework sites?