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HealthOctober 08, 2020

Padlet: A tool to engage students in a remote learning era

By: Manisa Baker, DNP, APRN, RN, CCNS, CCRN-k
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with its unprecedented change to higher education. As universities navigate and manage the spread of Covid-19, many have had to transition to online learning. Student engagement in class can be challenging in face-to-face courses, but it can seem nearly impossible in an online course. Padlet may be the tool you need to engage your students in a remote learning environment.

What is a Padlet?

I used Padlet in my course during the spring of 2020, at the start of the pandemic. I wanted to provide students with an alternative method to engage in our synchronous Zoom classes. Padlet is a free, web-based application that allows users to create a “living bulletin board”. What is a “living bulletin board” you may ask? It is a board that students can interact with by responding to questions, posting questions, or sharing support via emoji that you can view in real-time. You can see the student responses, “light bulbs going off” or the points that you need to clarify in an instant.

Different board formats to meet your needs

There are several different board formats that you can choose from. Padlet offers a wide variety that can meet your needs depending on your topic. The three formats listed below are the ones I have found to be the most useful.

  • Canvas – a board that students can scatter their comments and connect the content together, great for creating concept maps
  • Timeline – comments can be entered in a timeline format
  • Shelf – a board where the content is tacked in a series of columns
  • And many more!

Develop your bulletin board to meet your class objectives

I began using Padlet to have an alternative method for student engagement outside of chats and discussion. When working in a Zoom environment, it is difficult to manage PowerPoint slides, lectures, chat room monitoring and engaging students. I found Padlet to be a great alternative for classroom discussion. I was able to pick some key topics that I wanted to discuss as a class each week. Since the topics or questions were posted I didn’t have to flip back and forth between PowerPoint slides. The beauty of Padlet is the interaction that happens. After a short discussion, I would ask students to answer one of the discussion questions. As students entered their answers, I was able to see them populate Padlet in real-time. This gave me the opportunity to discuss the answers and solicit more information if needed.

Set-up is a breeze

Starting your Padlet journey is easy, the website is intuitive and fun. The welcome page always has a cute saying to pump up your creative juices. You can include instructions, headings, or categories to your boards. There are various backgrounds for you to pick from. Padlet is accessible through a shared link or QR code. This provides easy access for the students on various devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop). In my course, I copied both the link and the QR code and embedded it in our learning management system. You can let students participate anonymously or they can type their name in the title of each comment. Students can reinforce a theme or concept by using hearts or emoji.

Benefits

One of the greatest benefits I have found is that students don’t have to talk over each other to participate. Especially, during Zoom classes the added complexities of technology (muting, unmuting, lag in internet) can lead to class disruption and confusion. Padlet allows everyone to participate and you as the faculty member to lead the verbal discussion. Engagement then is limited to a handful of people who are comfortable talking to a group of people. Students who are shy or speak English as a second language may find this method less intimidating.

Every technology has limitations, but I have found Padlet to have very few. As faculty discover new ways to engage students, the website may find an increase in traffic causing lag time. I found this to be true when I used this in a class with 90 students. In hindsight, it may have been better to divide these students into groups and have individual groups post their responses.

It’s a great tool for student engagement and conducting discussions. The next time you need to teach an online class and want to interact more with your students consider trying Padlet.

Manisa Baker, DNP, APRN, RN, CCNS, CCRN-k
Nursing Education Author, Wolters Kluwer Health
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