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Digital educationStudent engagement

Tracking student engagement online

18 November 2020

One of the key aims of the digital learning framework is to promote student engagement with their learning, something which can be more challenging when students are studying remotely.

However, the online environment in some ways makes it easier to track student engagement. In the digital education team, we are often asked by colleagues how they can check that students are engaging with their module – and what content they are engaging with. So, we thought we would share some ideas here.

How can I get an overview of engagement and identify less engaged students?

One of the quickest ways to get a snapshot of user engagement in your Learning Central module is to view the Performance Dashboard. You can find this under ‘Evaluation’ in the ‘Module Management’ menu.

The Performance Dashboard provides information about your students in a user-friendly table format, including:

  • Date of last course access
  • Total number of days since last access
  • Items marked as ‘Reviewed’ (see ‘Review Status’)
  • Interactivity with discussion boards
  • Retention Centre overview (see ‘Retention Centre’)

The date of last course access allows you to see if there are any students who haven’t engaged with the module at all for a period of time, while the discussion board column gives you an overview of each students’ discussion board posts which can be really useful in a module where the importance of discussion is emphasised.

For more information please see Performance Dashboard on the Blackboard Help pages.

Another tool available from the ‘Evaluation’ part of the module menu in Learning Central is the Retention Centre, which allows you to set specific rules to trigger alerts for ‘at risk’ students. There are four categories of risk, and the bar along the top of the retention centre categorises the number of students falling under each ‘risk’, while the retention centre table orders students according to risk.

You can also monitor specific students, providing a quick overview of their engagement separate from the main table. This is particularly useful for large cohorts.   For more information, including how to create rules around student engagement, see Retention Centre on the Blackboard help pages.

What content are students looking at?

Panopto Statistics give you a powerful way to track engagement with the video content on your module, both at individual recording level and for the folder as a whole.

When hovering over a video in your Panoptofolder, you will presented with a number of options. Click on ‘Stats’to see the Session Dashboard for that video, highlighting key data such as:

  • Views and downloads by day – shows you when students have watched.
  • Top viewers – shows you who has watched.
  • Viewer engagement – shows you which parts of the video students have watched.

Data is customisable according to date range and all three reports can be downloaded as Excel files.

You can also run statistics for the entire Panopto folder on a module. To do this select the ‘Folder Stats’ button in the top-right corner of your folder.

This set of data analyses all videos on the module according to views and downloads, unique viewers, and minutes delivered. It also allows you to see top sessions, giving an indication of the type of content regularly viewed by students.

For an overview of these features please see the Statistics and Analytics video from Panopto.

In Learning Central Content Usage Statistics provide an overview for an individual piece of content, highlighting which students have looked at it, how often and when. This feature needs to be switched on in advance for each item but gives a breakdown of how much the content has been viewed and on which dates. See our Content Usage Statistics worksheet for more details.

However, you should use this reporting with caution as for a Learning Central ‘Item’ it will only show that it has  been ‘shown’ to a student (how many times the student has gone into the content area and therefore “seen” the item) rather than whether the student has read it.

Can I make students a more active part of the tracking process?

You can of course create summative quizzes using the Learning Central Test tool to not only check (and encourage) student engagement but also to help monitor progress against learning objectives for particular topics or the module as a whole. Our asynchronous training resource includes a workshop on learning central tests.

Review status allows students to ‘tick off’ content and activities they have read, watched or completed, and to keep track of their own progress. It also allows you to keep track of this progress for individual students or for individual content items. This has to used carefully as of course this is self-assessed by the students themselves, as it were, but nonetheless can be a really useful feature and provide you with a level of insight otherwise difficult to achieve.

The drawback is you have to turn this functionality on in advance for each piece of content or activity – once you have created something (e.g. an item, file, web link, quiz, discussion forum) in a Learning Central folder just click on the chevron next to the item to reveal more options. Click on Set Review Status to enable this for students. Students will then have the option to mark content as reviewed by clicking on the option below each item.

As an instructor, you can review engagement by selecting the chevron next to the item and selecting User Progress. You will then be presented with a list of every student on the module and if/when they marked the item as ‘reviewed’.

What about live teaching sessions?

Each of the virtual classroom tools we use at Cardiff has ways to monitor attendance. The efficacy of these methods sometimes depends on the settings you enable for your sessions, but each tool does allow you to keep track of attendance – the following guides talk you through this for each tool:

What if I need more help?

For further advice on student tracking or ways you can more effectively engage students online please contact the Digital Education Support Service –

You may also find these resources on engaging students useful – they have been created by the CESI Student Engagement team.


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