Published: 4/1/2024

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Emails, texts, social media, oh my ― distractions, distractions. According to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 65% of students said they get distracted by digital devices, while 59% get distracted by other students using devices.

No matter how you teach, whether online, in-person or hybrid, as an instructor, you want to engage students in your courses and ensure they fully understand (and enjoy) the subject matter. But how do you do that when it feels like you’re vying for their attention? We have a few tricks up our sleeves.

Try these current higher ed trends in your courses.

  1. Gamification

Gamification isn’t a new concept, but continues to be a high motivator for students. A study on Science Direct shows that gamification can boost performance by at least 89% when compared to the standard lecture-based format.

As an instructor, you can incorporate gamification in a variety of ways — across disciplines — as much or as little as you want. Here are a few examples:

In our 2023 Empowered Educator online conference, “Embracing a New College Classroom,” Associate Professor Lisa Heller Boragine shared her research on game-based learning and discussed creating escape rooms to build student engagement. You can watch the recorded session here to learn how to add gamification, including escape rooms, to your course.

Live Virtual Machine Labs (VMLs) within MindTap gamify IT education by providing a challenging, interactive, and results-oriented learning environment that mirrors the engaging aspects of video games.

Thanks to a partnership with MobLab, an incredible suite of engaging Economics experiments and games can be easily assigned and accessed from within MindTap. These activities are designed to help students explore complex Economics concepts — from interest rates to price discrimination — while enhancing critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Best of all, they can be played in a matter of minutes!

  1. Microcredentials and digital badges

Accredible, a digital credentialing platform, defines microcredentials as “a framework for delivering competency-based qualifications that are shorter than a comprehensive certification.” Through microcredentialing, learners can earn digital badges or digital certificates to verify and showcase their proficiency in specific skills and subject areas.

In fact, we recently partnered with Accredible for Computing courses, so students can earn digital badges in MindTap and share their achievements with potential employers.

You might be wondering, do microcredentials motivate students? A Coursera study shows, “students are 76% more likely to enroll in an academic program that offers micro-credentials.” As student needs and employer expectations shift, many colleges and universities are embracing microcredentials to boost enrollment, especially for students looking for workforce training or upskilling.

  1. Experiential learning

College students aren’t confident they have the skills they need to succeed as an employee. Our guide, “Are Students Career Ready?,” notes that 39% of graduates “feel college didn’t prepare them for the working world,” and 51% of employees say higher ed institutions “need to do more to address the skills shortage.”

But how can students really understand what it’s like to do a job, without being immersed in the work environment? Faculty can adopt interactive tools and simulation software that allow students to complete tasks like they would in the workplace. Moreover, these types of tools help students stay engaged and retain information. An AACSB article states that using engaging simulations is “one of the best ways for students to gain practice.”

These are just some of our tools to consider:

  • GitHub Codespaces in MindTap lets computing students code in a real coding lab
  • MindTap MOSS (Medical Office Simulation Software) allows Medical Assisting students to complete activities like they would in a busy medical office
  • Apply It activities simulate the use of medical terminology through authentic, real-world experiences
  • Explore Its for Calculus enable students to test concepts and discover when they would use a concept in the real world
  • Liz Co’s “Anatomy & Physiology,” 1e features case studies, a great low-stakes way for students to practice real-world learning

Higher ed trends ahead

As employer demands, student learning needs and the overall higher education realm continue to shift, new learning innovations and higher ed trends may come and go. However, one thing remains consistent. You, as an instructor, are the most important component in making your students’ education memorable and meaningful.

To prove it, students have shared their thoughts on the instructors who taught their favorite classes, and motivated and inspired them most.


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