Dr. Laura McNeill, assistant professor and Instructional Technology master’s degree program coordinator in the UA College of Education, submitted this tip for staying engaged with her students.

Laura McNeillMidway through every semester, I ask my students to identify their “muddiest point.” The “muddiest point” can be anything related to the course or to the field of instructional design and technology, including terminology, theory, best practices and career-related questions. I find that answering these “muddiest points” promptly paves the way for a smooth journey to the end of the semester.

I love to use Flip, a video discussion and sharing app from Microsoft, for this exercise and offer five or 10 points as a participation grade, which makes it a safe, low-stakes assignment. Discussion posts and in-classroom tools can be used, but Flip allows me to see the students’ faces and expressions and hear their voices. I then answer each student’s post individually with my own Flip video. Typically, there is consensus among many students’ “muddiest points” as more Flips are posted. Students are also encouraged to chime in with their own video answers or post text comments, which strengthens engagement, trust and community. 

The following week, I compile the list of “muddiest point” questions and hold an optional Zoom meeting to review the questions and answers. It’s an enjoyable time for me and the students, as we share some laughs and many “aha” moments through casual conversation. Overall, it’s a fantastic opportunity to pause and get valuable student feedback that allows me not only to clarify and correct information, but also gives me the chance to grow as an instructor and connect on a deeper level with my students.