Critical course reading – making it more engaging?

Critical course reading – making it more engaging?

  • Pearson
  • 28 June 2017
  • Posted in: Education

In many introductory courses, we consistently hear lecturers lament that students come into class having not read the book or completed the assignment. Reading remains a core and essential foundational skill, and with the ubiquity of information today, it could be argued that “critical reading” is more important than ever. From “critical reading” stem the core academic skills of “critical thinking” and “critical writing”.

Revel is a new interactive learning tool that has been designed to engage students in critical reading and develop their critical thinking skills, and is now available for introductory courses in management, organisational behaviour, strategy and marketing.

Students not reading the core course content is just one of the many challenges facing UK universities.

You’re also facing increased student pressure to provide regular personalised feedback, being asked to evidence effective use of contact and non-contact time, all whilst worrying about improving results and decreasing drop-out rates. And of course, the TEF looms large, with the pressure to respond to these challenges heightened when student satisfaction ratings often depend on them.

There are plenty of approaches to addressing these issues being implemented across institutions; from introducing flipped learning and using classroom response systems to setting assessments via your VLE and devising tutor or peer-to-peer support structures.

However, students understanding the core concepts of a course is still fundamental to the success of all these strategies. That’s where Revel comes in.

Revel interweaves text-based reading material, interactive exercises, infographics, social features and video segments. You assign relevant material to your students, deciding which activities they should complete, and with performance analytics, you can see at a glance the level of student engagement.

To support the flipped learning method (Bergmann & Sams, 2012), assign Revel materials prior to face-to-face sessions then track how much time students spent and what they grasped or struggled with, so that your sessions are tailored. If you’re already using recorded lectures or short videos, assigning Revel’s small chunks of content plus the regular interactive exercises, is a useful supplement to help students take a more active role in their learning. The value of active pauses between chunks of content lies in the opportunity for learners to stop and process information using encoding and retrieval processes in the brain (Cheon, Crooks, & Chung, 2014), which in turn should lead to your students being able to apply what they have remembered in your face-to-face sessions.

Revel is built upon the learning design principal that students should read a little, do a little to reinforce their understanding and improve retrieval, (McDaniel, Anderson, Derbish & Morrisette, 2007; Wiliam 2007). Its interactive diagrams, drag & drop exercises and short quizzes are the perfect preparation for longer summative quizzes on your VLE or for seminar discussions.

It’s often tutor-led seminars and peer-to-peer support sessions that are most effective in supporting your students to develop their critical thinking and academic writing skills.

With Revel’s Journal questions students are encouraged to reflect on theories as they learn them and through Shared writing assignments students can support each other in developing sound academic opinions. And because you can instantly access all your students’ written responses, you’ll be able to address skills gaps more readily.

Pearson’s research with Swansea University showed students who used Revel prior to attending a seminar session, didn’t ask basic questions and could complete the seminar questions more quickly which allowed the lecturer to spend more time on higher cognitive skills. Whilst students at University of Sheffield said that with Revel they prepare more for seminars, are encouraged to do the reading, and that they felt their confidence had improved.

So, to support you in tackling the current challenges of teaching, Revel aims to be a strong choice for helping your students to develop the fundamental skills of critical reading, critical thinking and critical writing. And if you can help your students be more engaged, get better results and be well prepared for the world of work, then perhaps you’ll also be helping your institution get better NSS scores and contributing positively to its TEF rating.

To see a live demonstration of Revel or for more information contact



Bergmann, J. & Sams, A. (2012). Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. International Society for Technology in Education


Cheon, J., Crooks, S., & Chung, S. (2014). Does segmenting principle counteract modality principle in instructional animation? British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(1), 56–64.


McDaniel, M. A., Anderson, J. L., Derbish, M. H., & Morrisette, N. (2007). Testing the testing effect in the classroom. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19, (4-5), 494–513. doi: 10.1080/09541440701326154.


Wiliam, D., & Thompson, M. (2007). Integrating Assessment with Instruction: What Will It Take to Make It Work? In The Future of Assessment: Shaping Teaching and Learning, edited by Carol A. Dwyer. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


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