How can digital reading tools enable students to develop their ability to read sources collaboratively and critically? In the summer, I published a post on the University of Lincoln Digital education blog about my use of Talis Elevate on a third year module to support student engagement with primary source readings online. I’ve been developing the approach for 3 years now (so, in lockdown, but also before it), so have had some time to reflect on what’s worked well and what’s needed refining.

You can read the full post here, but I’ve copied the conclusion across so you can see the key takeaways. As part of the Active Online Reading project, we’ll be exploring other tools and approaches to engaging students with texts online, so watch this space for more material.

Talis Elevate has proven to be a really effective tool for enabling students to engage in collaborative close reading in preparation for seminars. Student feedback has been positive, emphasising the following elements:

  1. Learning from each other, especially getting access to different perspectives and interpretations (‘It [Talis Elevate] helped as a convenient place for notes and was good for class collaboration and sharing/building of ideas’ – student feedback)
  2. Generating a knowledge bank that they can return to later for assessments (‘Because I participated more on Talis, I knew sooner what to base my research essay on unlike other modules when I found that harder. It also was a useful repository of notes which made planning the essay a lot easier. The comments also provided me with more to discuss in the seminars, helping to develop my ideas and understanding better.’),
  3. Integrating ‘homework’ and in-class activity so they are able to see that their contributions are relevant to the module as a whole.

It’s also worth noting that research we’ve conducted suggests that even very engaged and high achieving students experience a sense of vulnerability around online engagement – they find the process of sharing their annotations as inducing a certain level of anxiety. Next time I teach the module, I will do more work to address this issue.

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