Using a mobile app to increase student engagement

Elise Baldwin - Sciences and Humanities Product Manager at Cengage Learning

Elise Baldwin is the Sciences and Humanities Product Manager at Cengage Learning – a leading educational content, software and services provider. She has been happily working in the training sector for over 5 years – both in publishing and educational sales.. You might have met Elise during her sales stint on campus or more recently, at various digital learning conferences around Australia. Today Elise shares a lovely online learning success story – the use of MindTap learning technology at Deakin University to improve learning and increase engagement.

What is MindTap?

MindTap is a personal learning experience that allows students who are completing online modules published by Cengage to access a range of features such as due date reminders, flash cards, and practice quizzes. Students can choose from the courses they are taking and use MindApps to access everything in one place – assignments, study guides, notes, eBooks and results – and other tools customised for that specific course.


Using MindTap learning technology to study Human Physiology at Deakin University improved learning and increased engagement. Students participated in a trial of MindTap over two weeks as part of a work placement project, using Sherwood’s Human Physiology MindTap.

Associate Professor West’s challenge

Assoc. Prof Jan West wanted to find new and innovative ways to use technology in the classroom, to provide her students with high quality interactive material to learn and to improve their understanding of concepts. She was faced with trimester time constraints, the need to cater to different styles of learners in her classroom, and requirements to teach students from varying academic backgrounds with different levels of subject knowledge.

Changing requirements for teaching

Deakin University is reviewing all teaching via a course enhancement process and academics are encouraged to explore technology to enhance the curriculum. Cengage Learning’s specialist digital support team established a trial module for around 20 students for MindTap Human Physiology. Assoc. Prof West used the trial as part of a professional placement core unit for biological science and biomedical science students, where students complete an 80 hour placement. Student work included study, focus groups and student intercept surveys to provide direct feedback about their experience of learning with MindTap. The trial also helped Assoc. Prof West discover how students learn and what electronic technologies they find useful.

Credit: Blow Your Mind by Camilo Rueda López

The trial

Each student had access to Chapter 9: Cardiac Physiology eBook and activities including interactive content and study aids for that chapter such as Aplia MindApp and CNow MindApp virtual labs. Assoc. Prof West required her students to work through the functionality within the MindTap course and to write and submit a report, reviewing the different components of the MindTap module. Students were asked to comment on all the features within MindTap and whether they believed MindTap helped them to understand concepts in the textbook chapter, based on a pre-test they did earlier in the trimester to determine what kind of learners they were.

What students said

Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive. When asked about the overall experience, 53% of students said they ‘loved it’ and 47% ‘liked it’, commenting they “just loved it and I like doing everything with my laptop. I found it really suitable for me.” In terms of ease of use, 88% of students found it ‘very easy’ or ‘pretty easy’ to use MindTap. Students commented that MindTap was “extremely easy to use and manoeuvre through the site. Great to have everything in the one place”. Nearly all students commented on how much easier it was to study with all resources in the one learning path and 65% said they would access via their phone.

They also gave feedback that helped them to better understand the concepts, with 82% responding ‘Yes! I feel confident I understand’ and that MindTap “was very flexible in how I could study, so I could choose the study methods that were most convenient for me to learn.” When asked if they would recommend it to a lecturer, 70% said ‘yes’. Comments included “It would be a great way to interact and a funky new way to engage students as well as learning new content.”

What now?

Assoc. Prof West is assessing her plans for 2016 and considering giving all students enrolled in the second year physiology units access to MindTap via the Learning Management System. She has invited Cengage Learning to present at the Deakin University-wide Teaching and Learning retreat in June 2016. She says “MindTap engages the students and allows them to have fun with their learning. I see MindTap as a useful tool to assist students understanding of the basic physiological concepts prior to coming to class. There are many new concepts and lots of new terminology for the students to learn. I currently provide enrichment tasks – online quizzes, study questions, case studies and YouTube clips to assist their learning. The benefit of MindTap is that it can all be packaged into one space and we can “Deakinise” the modules with specific case studies. The graphics and the apps available in this resources are also of a very high quality. There is an increasing number of students not using paper based items for their learning so this would be of benefit.”

Accessing Cengage resources

Teachers can now access popular courses from Cengage Learning through the VET Commons ready-made plugin. Join the VET Commons community today to access an extensive range of valuable teaching resources, many of which are entirely free.