OHS is Testing a New Engagement Tracker: Here’s What You Need To Know

Various teachers at OHS have begun to test a feature in Adobe Connect that tracks the engagement of participants during class.

Pictured is two features of the Engagement Index that the host sees during a meeting. On the left is the Engagement Index for individual participants during the meeting, and on the right is the Engagement Index gauging the engagement of the whole meeting.

**Update: OHS has halted the pilot of the new engagement tracker in light of the OHS Community’s concerns. The possibility of using it will be further discussed prior to implementation.

Various teachers at OHS have begun to test a feature in Adobe Connect that tracks the engagement of participants during class.

Rumors began spiraling around Friday on social media as well as on Skype of a new software that was tracking participation within Adobe Connect. Some allegations even stretched as far as teachers being able to see what websites students were on during class. However, this claim was found to be false.

There are currently two features that teachers are using to track participation in Adobe Connect: the Engagement Index and the Step Out feature.

The Engagement Index calculates participation with two different mechanisms: individual engagement scores and the overall percentage of engagement. The tool as a whole consists of three main features. During the meeting teachers are able to see individual participants engagement and the overall engagement of the class. After the meeting, teachers are able to see individual engagement over the whole class. Engagement is measured by activity within the Adobe Connect room and is calculated on minute intervals.

During the meeting, a colored bar will show up next to each participant to measure engagement when the engagement feature is turned on. Red bars show up next to participants with low engagement, yellow bars for average engagement, and green bars for those with high engagement.

After the meeting, the host receives a minute by minute chart showing engagement scores at each minute of the meeting. This chart can be seen as individual participants’ scores or the class scores as a whole.

Participants earn engagement points by participating in different activities within the Adobe Connect room, such as text chat or camera and microphone interactions. For example, if an individual participant’s cursor is clicked on the Adobe Connect tab then they’ll receive 70 points, and if they are on a separate tab then they’ll receive 20 points. Simple activities will also give you engagement points. For example, scrolling on a notes pod gives you an easy 80 points.

Because the engagement index is calculated on a minute interval, it is important to note that engagement scores also diminish over time. Students have to continuously be active in Adobe Connect to keep the scores up. Being active at the beginning of class, and zoning out at the end will show up on the engagement score provided to the host at the end of a meeting.

Another feature of the engagement index is a meter that measures engagement of the class as a whole. It is measured on a scale between 0 to 100%; The meter will be red when there is 0-20% engagement, yellow at 20-60%, and green when there is 60-100% engagement. More on the engagement index can be read here.

Instructors can further track student engagement by turning on the step out feature. This feature sets the status of a participant to stepped-out when their cursor is clicked on another tab. The Step Out feature has been available for as long as OHS has been using Adobe Connect. However, many instructors do not use this feature because they found it to be more distracting than useful.

Since Friday, students have been left in the dark about the new participation tracker by administration. The school administration’s lack of transparency set students into a frenzy of panic. Along with the rumors, concern was expressed on social media and within group chats throughout the school.

“OHS is a school that prides itself on its integrity and commitment to students and their families. With that in mind I felt like the community, and especially the parents, should have been informed about the implementation of new software that will factor into their child’s academic performance,” said Ram K., class of 2018.

This became even more troubling when students came to class Monday to find that their teachers had begun to use the tracking device that was rumored about.

“Say you are taking notes on another window, they won’t know that,” says sophomore Elliott C.

Amid all the concern, teachers and adminstration want to make it clear that this was something that was just being tested out.

“No teacher is trying to replace however they currently assess class participation with an app,” says Ms. Bickart, Division Head of Languages. “But we are OHS teachers and we are interested in knowing what apps exist and finding out if in fact there is any way in which they are useful.”

The Engagement Index is not an automatic method of measuring participation, and staff members are fully aware of its limitations. Profesora Nadaner, a Spanish teacher at OHS, has been testing this tool with some of her classes for the past two weeks and found it lacking in several ways.

“For starters, it is NOT, in my humble opinion, a reliable assessment of class participation,” Nadaner said. “If you are using video, typing in text chat, have a hand raised, you are ‘more engaged’ but if you are just listening, you are ‘less engaged.’”

An email was sent out Tuesday to all staff asking them to take a pause on the new tool after receiving numerous concerned comments from students. Teachers will be discussing the new tool and its limitations at their all-staff-meeting come December 1st, and Student Government will be discussing the new tool at their meeting on December 8th.

As for new tools to track participation, Dr. Beattie, the Director of Educational Technology at OHS and various other teachers interviewed seem to be optimistic about finding new softwares, whether it be this one or another one.

“One thing that’s promising about features like these is that they might help to show such engagement even when a student isn’t the type to talk a lot on microphone or pepper the text chat with regular comments,” notes Beattie.