Timea Kadar, Associate Dean and Programme Leader, MSc Digital Marketing Programme, Northumbria University London Campus

Timea Kadar is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and is the Associate Dean and Programme Leader of the MSc Digital Marketing Programme at Northumbria University London Campus. She is the Winner of the Student Led Teaching Award nominated by students. Her subject field is marketing and business with decades of practitioner experience and she is keen on finding new ways of embedding employability into the curriculum and thinking of education in a holistic way helping students beyond sharing subject knowledge.


University lecturers often face the challenge of keeping students engaged for hours, competing with the distractions of smartphones, AirPods, and messaging groups. The best weapon against these is delivering content that keeps students on their toes from the beginning to the end. See some tried and tested techniques below.

Association game

At a university level, students have already been exposed to their chosen field in some form. Starting the session with an association game encourages students to reflect on what they already know or think about the subject, provides a common platform for discussion, and helps the teacher understand the level of subject awareness in the classroom.

Simply ask students to work in groups, pairs, or individually, and list the first three things that come to their minds when you mention the subject of the session (you can project a word or expression on the screen.)

It’s important to stress that it’s not about sharing a definition but whatever comes to their minds (it could be an example, a feeling, an adjective, or a noun). Association games help sparkle the brain and creativity and make students more attentive as they would like to find out what others thought of, and what the lecturer shares with them.

The lecturer can build on everything shared, and reflect on what students associated the subject with. This enables students to connect new content with what they already knew – or thought – of the subject.

Mentimeter offers a free word cloud solution, where the teacher can type in associations students share and they can see what the most common perception is. It’s interesting to compare it across cohorts and find similarities and differences.

Quizzes, questions

Quizzes and polls help engagement at various stages of the lecture and the module delivery and give feedback to the teacher about the level of subject understanding.

At the beginning of the session, the lecturer can ask students to guess the answers to certain questions, shared in a multiple choice quiz. Then tell students to find the answers during the lecture, and run the poll again at the end, when students should have answers. This increases curiosity, as students would like to find the answers, and will be more attentive (especially if a competition with prizes is included). It also gives good feedback to the lecturer on how students progressed in understanding the topic.

An alternative to quizzes is open questions the lecturer displays at the beginning of the session to increase the curiosity of the students. At the end of the session, these can be displayed again, prompting students to answer.

It’s easy to set up polls with Mentimeter, while Kahoot enables lecturers to create quizzes with competition.


Using stories at any stage of the session helps complex subjects come to life and students will remember them more easily. The lecturer can start the session with a story demonstrating the problem discussed in the topic. Alternatively, use stories to illustrate the theory: these can be case studies coming from the lecturer’s own experience, from other professionals, or from well-known people and companies. It’s crucial to search for the stories in advance – or ask students to find supporting stories in their research.

Analogies are also great tools to help students relate the new topic to something they already know. Think of everyday examples that you can use to explain the topic and students will reward you with their attention and a better understanding of the subject.

Flip teaching

Learning something is more effective when explaining it to someone. Put your students into the lecturer’s seat. Ask them to prepare for certain areas of the topic and present what they have found. This improves their research, understanding, and presenting skills. After their presentations, the lecturer introduces the topic and relates it to what the students found.

As students have already done some research and presented the topic, it is easier for them to understand and remember the subject in greater depth.

Thinking outside the box

Unexpected elements make students sit up, and the presentation becomes more exciting. It requires some thinking and brainstorming but will have its rewards. The lecturer can place the subject into another historic time period and ask students to think about how it would have looked like then. (“What would have been the HR department of Henry VI?”) Or ask students what our world would look like without the subject you discuss. (“How our day would look like without social media?”)

Organise a mini-debate: start the session with a controversial statement, asking the students to either support it or confront it in a discussion.

You can also step outside the classroom, and take a walk experiencing the topic in real life whenever it applies (with the necessary health and safety precautions). In business subjects, taking a walk in the area helps students identify various business models, customer needs, and insights.

 Public speaking

Even the most exciting topic can become boring if the presentation style is flat. A good lecturer is an excellent public speaker and works on their presentation skills. Opening the session with an attention grabber, using voice and pauses effectively, using the right tone, and gestures, and resonating with the needs of the audience are essential. It’s crucial to speak the language of the students and use jargon only if it is explained and understood by all parties. The best teachers we remember are also great entertainers.

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