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Judaic Studies Instructor Uses Technology to Increase Accessibility and Engagement

No matter how simple or silly, John Brolley finds fun, creative ways to keep his students engaged with ancient texts.

Date: 9/14/2016
By: Maggie Heath-Bourne
Other Contact: Jackie Mulay
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-4519
John Brolley may be best known among his students for the goofy pop culture images he integrates into course PowerPoints in order to spark discussion on the texts he teaches… even if the texts pre-date the pop culture references. 

“My teaching areas all involve events and writings that are thousands of years old, so folks are often surprised by the amount of modern technology I use to try and bring those items to life,” says Brolley. 

Brolley, who teaches History of Jewish Civilization I and Evolution of the Angel this fall, also imports audio, videos and anything else he can into class meetings in order to grab students’ attention. He knows the importance of breaking up class with different activities or discussions so that he is not lecturing to students the entire time — especially during three-hour evening classes where students are more likely to become disengaged or even fall asleep.

eLearning technologies don’t always have to be the most advanced. Sometimes, even the most simple technologies can add flair to a course. For example, Brolley assigns students to post their completed group projects on Blackboard’s discussion board so that they can get feedback from him as well as other students. The Discussion Board posts are more than just a way to start meaningful conversations with students; the feature helps students learn to be sound communicators and effective writers, especially in the online format.

“My technology approaches and techniques vary from course to course because, well, it’s not just about teaching a wide variety of subjects — it’s also about the diversity of my students and their learning styles,” says Brolley.

Though Brolley teaches face-to-face courses, he understands the importance of making course material accessible outside of the classroom. He uploads all his PowerPoint presentations and assigned readings to Blackboard for students to review (which also helps save students money on textbooks).

Students in Brolley’s courses don’t ever have to worry about missing a course announcement — he registers his courses on, which allows him to input brief messages that are then sent as texts to every student in the course. He says is great in case of emergencies, as students check their text messages constantly. 

Another fun way Brolley keeps students’ minds active during class meetings? “I make a point of researching and presenting specially selected background music for times when students are engaged in group projects or quizzes,” he says. “It makes a huge difference!”