Thoughts on Student Engagement - The Power of Linking

Dr. Dave Rausch, Associate Professor of Political Science and tMentor

    As instructors we are challenged to provide resources and information additional to the textbooks and lectures.  We have to consider duplication costs and whether or not we are depleting natural resources wisely.  We also want our students to learn as much as possible.  I have found a solution in the simple process of linking.

    Linking can be used in traditional face-to-face courses as well as online courses.  For the online courses I use lists of links (you may find some of these in the course areas of my courses on WTClass).  I include the links in my online course lectures as part of the text.  By the way, the links do not always have to point to other peoples' websites.  I have included papers and projects I have written as links on my course webpages.

How do I find things to link to?
  • You may want to start with your textbook.  Many textbooks include "For additional information" sections that may have URLs.  You will need to be careful because links change and the URLs may have become corrupted during the publishing process.
  • Instructors manuals also may have additional resources like webpages.
  • You could find webpages using a search engine like Google.
  • I've learned that the reference librarians in Cornette Library enjoy searching for web resources.  It is possible that a previous instructor may have asked the reference librarians to set up a course guide for your course.  Of course, the librarians will not link the webpages to your website, but they may be able to provide some interesting resources.
Why would I want to spend extra time looking for webpages to link to?
  • You will be providing students with access to more information on the topic you are examining in class.  You will have some idea what outside reading and research they are doing since you directed them to the websites.
  • The students will have access to more examples of the concepts you are examining in class.  This may make it easier for students to grasp and apply those concepts.  It also is possible that the information you provide will become more "real."
  • Linking makes it easier to provide alternative theories and perspectives.  Recall that one of the questions on the CIEQ is "The instructor encouraged development of new viewpoints and appreciations.
  • Linking may encourage a greater sense of ownership for the student.  Instead of the instructor working, the student gathered the information.  It may spur them to look for more information.  A sense of ownership will increase engagement and it may also increase CIEQ ratings.
Are there any problems or issues involved in linking to other material?
  • Probably the biggest challenge is that the World Wide Web is a dynamic organism.  URLs change and links move.  Keeping the information updated and free of "dead" links takes a little time.
  • The information presented on some webpages is incorrect and sometimes just morally wrong.  You will have to evaluate the webpages to make sure that they are produced by reputable sources.  The reference librarians will be able to direct you to ways of evaluating webpages and webpage content.  Dr. Hal Nees, a Criminal Justice professor at Metropolitan State College of Denver, provides some guidance on How to Evaluate Web Resources.
What do I do when a student asks, "Is the material on the linked pages going to be on the test?"

I'm asked this every semester.  My honest answer is "Yes.  The linked material provides additional information that will help you in preparing for the tests."  Typically, the truly engaged student will not ask.

August 14, 2005