Maintaining students’ attention in the era of digital distraction is a challenge for most university and college professors, but what do you do if your course has to be taught as a three-hour night session?

That was a question Professor Shaun Dakin of George Mason University sought an answer to—and it’s a dilemma that increasing numbers of faculty have to contend with as institutions move to better serve diverse student populations who are balancing competing responsibilities (such as working full-time) with their studies.

Professor Dakin got started with Top Hat’s classroom response system as a means of keeping his nighttime students on task and engaged in his digital marketing courses. His initial plan was to deliver pre-lecture quizzes direct to his students’ devices, but he observed that engagement in the course grew as he spaced  out and diversified the use of questions and polling in his classroom.

Dakin was also delighted to find that using Top Hat for more than quizzing created a new equity in his classroom. “I had the additional challenge that probably about 30-50 percent of the class are either foreign students or are students who are American but moved here and speak another language in the home—the issue being that they’re not 100 percent confident in raising their hands or participating in discussion in the classroom. I wanted to figure out how to give everybody an opportunity to participate.”

When Dakin began to use Top Hat for class discussion, it helped level the playing field and encouraged all students to participate, regardless of their English proficiency.

In a new How I Taught This interview, Professor Dakin takes us on his journey from “sage on the stage” to active learning facilitator and describes how the use of technology helped him get a firm handle on the attention issue in his nighttime class.

For some tips and inspiration, check out the short video below:

If you’d like to learn more about Top Hat and instructional design changes that can help you maximize attention in your classes, step-by-step training modules are available over at Top Hat University.