University of Nicosia Drives Innovation and Engagement with Intentional Technology

The original article is by Talia Kolodny, it can be found here. For convenience, below is the article.

The University of Nicosia's School of Business is recognized for its excellence in teaching and research on the interdisciplinary field of business and ICT. With over 2,000 students (in January 2023) and an academic community of almost 100 members, it is the top business school in Cyprus and Greece (THE WUR Subject Business and Economics 2023). The school is committed to providing its students with the best possible learning experience by promoting innovative teaching and learning methods. In line with this, the business school recently decided to introduce Engageli, a purpose-built learning platform for active and collaborative learning designed by educators. The platform will be used across the MBA program and the MSc in Blockchain and Digital Currency to promote more interaction, participation, and meaningful engagement for better learning outcomes. Leading this transformation is the Dean of the Business School, Prof. Angelika Kokkinaki, working in collaboration with Dr. Chris Alexander, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning Centre, who has introduced Engageli to the university.

The Vision of Engaging, Human-Centered Classrooms

The University of Nicosia's Business School is dedicated to innovative teaching and learning methods. The school is continuously searching for new ways for students to engage meaningfully and learn effectively. With a focus on enhancing engagement levels, enabling meaningful connections between students, determining engagement benchmarks for continuous improvement, and increasing student satisfaction, the business school is hoping to see an increased enrollment for business education. The tools for learning and the environment that was being used were not able to propel this vision forward. “The existing learning environments did not support group work nor interactivity. This posed a challenge, especially for simulations, case studies, and projects commonly employed through our modules said Dean Kokkinaki. Attempts to use different video conferencing or communication tools did not provide a good solution. Networking and peer-to-peer connections that are common practice in face-to-face classes cannot be easily accommodated online. Kokkinaki also mentioned “The Black Screen Syndrome”, where faculty face cameras that are off instead of their students’ faces and receive minimal feedback from their students, mostly in the form of typed responses that usually appear with some delay. “These feelings of isolation, demotivation and suboptimal learning should never be accepted as status quo”, she added.

Implementing a solution to drive innovation

Engageli offers human-centered learning at scale by enabling seamless transitions from full-class to group interactions without losing touch with learners. It offers access to a highly engaging and dynamic learning environment to individuals regardless of their location or connectivity levels. Even students in remote locations can easily participate and interact with peers in the classroom, as Engageli offers diverse channels of communication, participation, and feedback and allows for natural peer-to-peer interactions.

In the first year of implementation, Engageli adoption at Nicosia grew from 90 to 850 students in the Blockchain and Digital Currency Programs (ranked in the global top 10), and continues to grow and expand as both students and instructors are finding the clear benefits of the system. Instructors who used embedded polls discovered the benefit of low-stakes engagement strategies, as they led to 90-100% participation and sparked interaction for students. Dr. Konstantinos Karasavvas, Professor of Computer Science and Blockchain Technology said: “Students are usually quite reluctant to ask questions, but the polls (plus discussion) helped to engage them, i.e. more people seem to ask follow-up questions.

When asked what it was like to implement Engageli, Dean Kokinaki said: “I’ve never worked with a company that is so dedicated to supporting me as an instructor. I feel so much calmer knowing that the Engageli team is there for me while I explore Engageli with my students!”  The level of support and responsiveness of the Engageli team was a key factor in the success of implementing Engageli at the University of Nicosia. The success plan included a thoughtful onboarding process that promoted the recruitment and training of a large and growing number of instructors.

A shift to data-driven teaching with detailed analytics

With Engageli, the university could start tracking learner progress with every interaction, identifying learners at risk, encouraging learning outside of the classroom, and analyzing attendance trends for both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Instructors can now enhance their teaching methods by understanding engagement data trends. As an example, speaking Time analytics monitor all speaking time throughout the class based on role and speaking mode, even when students interact asynchronously without an instructor present. In a class from the MBA program, Engageli analytics show that initiating a table activity immediately drives high student engagement by comparing the instructor and student speaking times. Insights like these can promote teaching and learning best practices within the Business School Community. Engageli gave us so much more than what we usually have in the classroom.” Said Dean Kokkinaki. “With Engageli I can make data-driven decisions; I can easily track the team interactions, I can encourage less active participants to speak, I can shift and move people around to enhance engagement. This is over and beyond my usual interventions as a lecturer in a physical class. I truly cherish it.

Observing the power of a purpose-built tool

Engageli provided the University of Nicosia with an interactive, dynamic environment that facilitates meaningful peer-to-peer connections. Group projects, simulations and case studies at the Business School and Digital Currency program are now supported and enhanced by an intentional environment.

Chris Alexander described the teaching experience on Engageli by highlighting the joy of the students while interacting with each other:

“I see students laughing and smiling more. They have an opportunity to bring their own background and professional experiences into the classroom. This happens thanks to Engageli tables. The way I can Instantly click into table mode and go into groups, it’s just incredible. It doesn’t come close to other platforms.” 

Dr. Neophytos Karamanos, Professor of Corporate Strategy in the MBA program referred to his first experience with Engageli:

“Both myself and the students found the experience of our first Engageli session as extremely effective and enjoyable. Interaction was at a very high level… Overall what the platform provides is outstanding. I would be glad to extend the use of Engageli to all of my courses.”

In addition, the partnership with Engageli enables the university to lead and innovate while designing both synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences with added levels of engagement. Dr. Chris Alexander, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning Centre summarized:

“Engageli is so profoundly different conceptually from other standard video conferencing systems: it’s purposely built to facilitate the infinite possibilities of active learning. Right at the heart of Engageli is the pedagogical process of ‘discovering’ the affordances of 'decentralizing' the e-classroom. There is nothing else like it.” 

(pictured above): EOCCS presentation on ‘Engaging, Human-Centered Classrooms in Business Education’ to a large expert audience: fellow presenters were Keith Pond (Director, EOCCS EFMD Global, UK), Professor Angeliki Kokkinaki (Dean of the Business School, Unic), and Talia Kolodny (Director of of Partnerships, EMEA, Engageli, Israel/US)