Student engagement is a critical focus for most lecturers in higher education: when we see students engaged we feel alive as we observe them learn and transform.
However, teaching a generation used to watching TikTok and YouTube and posting on Instagram and Snapchat requires a bit more creativity than in years gone by. We need to try new innovations and explore new methods to stimulate that love for education, to enhance the blended learning experience for students.
This is part of our story. It’s something we are really passionate about and it’s the reason we created the app ‘Ryze’ to which all UK universities and colleges now have access thanks to a new agreement with Jisc.
Ryze is designed specifically to maximise business students’ engagement by creating content in the guise of media and social media platforms that students are already familiar with.
Based on the latest pedagogical research, it enables content to be broken down into bright and visually stimulating three-to-five-minute microlessons and videos. The idea of making learning fun is right at the heart of its design: students can design their own learning platform avatars and collect points as they successfully progress through the content. We co-founded Studious – the company that developed Ryze – because we felt the sector could do better in delivering a consistently high-quality digital learning experience.
We taught for many years across a range of research-intensive and teaching-focused higher education settings. We had worked as consultants for leading global publishers and companies.
We worked tirelessly to deliver the best education we could. We tried the latest trends in engagement at the time – YouTube videos, podcasts, wikis, e-books, threads, boards, quizzes and various flipped learning tools. They were positive developments back then, but they didn’t tackle the underlying need for first class digital learning.
For years now, students have been used to Silicon Valley technologies and media that captivate. Yet, our sector has remained wedded to books and lecture theatres, technologies and methods that are hundreds of years old.
This extends to the academic publishing industry, too. There was widespread recognition that textbooks should be digitally interactive (and not merely pdf textbook copies).
But there has been very little movement, so we set out on our own mission to change our world – the world of business and management students – to give them access to cutting-edge learning technologies with and 21st century media content to go with it.
Since its inception, Ryze is now in use at universities across the UK, well beyond just business courses. Our latest focus has been on widening participation initiatives and employability.
Our goal has always been to grow a community and stimulate more collaboration across the sector. We have been fortunate to work with a multitude of academics in many capacities, whether as collaborators, writers, reviewers or users of content. And the feedback from staff and students alike has been fantastic.
Universities are in an era of change and the landscape of higher education has become ever more volatile since the pandemic. So, while the future remains uncertain, the direction towards smart and fun digital technologies is likely to be here to stay.
The challenge for us as educators is to respond to the needs of learners in a collaborative way. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that by coming together and trying new things, we can overcome many of the challenges we face.
This blog is part of a series from guest contributors about the latest agreements reached with third parties to enhance the student experience around blended learning.
A Jisc/Studious agreement is available to members.