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What Does “Student Engagement” Mean in an Online Course?

Keeping your students engaged has always been vital for an exceptional online learning experience. “For faculty teaching online, one of the most persistent challenges is finding ways to generate the same level of interpersonal interaction possible with students in person. Such engagement is essential for student success” (Rudra, 2020).

There can be many ways to define “student engagement” as well as several methods on how to achieve what is to be considered as good student engagement in an online course. “We may consider students to be engaged in our courses as long as they are completing the material on time. However, it comes as no surprise that students can participate in learning without truly being engaged. Typically, this occurs when students experience more passive participation as opposed to active participation” (Abdulla, 2021). Let’s explore three methods on how to increase student engagement in an online class.

Methods to Increase Student Engagement

Encourage Active Learning

One of the most used methods to increase student engagement is to encourage active learning. “Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves” (Chickering & Gamson). 

You can achieve this through using structured exercises, discussions, team projects, peer critiques, independent research, etc. You want to make sure that you are giving your students the opportunity to write about their learning and be able to relate it to some of their past experiences. Some of the tools within D2L that can be used to do this are Discussions, Groups, and Self-Assessments.

Communicate Using Multiple Formats

You should also communicate using multiple formats. The standard methods of communicating in an online course, such as emails, and discussions might not always be your go-to when wanting to reach out to your students. Also, written lectures may not come across as well as a video or audio recorded lectures would. “Student feedback has shown that when students perceive that an instructor is making an effort to engage with them online, students are more likely to put energy into the course” (Rudra, 2020). Students like to feel connected to their professors, and by adding weekly audio/video content to your course, you provide more meaningful content for your students.

Encourage 2-Way Feedback

One of the best ways to have an impact on future student effort is to provide feedback quickly. Responding to emails, assignments, and discussion boards in a timely manner helps students stay focused. (Dahl, 2012)

Instructor feedback is not the only important type of feedback in an online course. You also want to encourage the students to give you feedback on how the course is going. This makes students feel more connected to their learning journey. “Continuous improvement is important for helping instructors develop their own skills teaching online and for adapting a course to the needs and preferences of a specific group of students” (Rudra, 2020). You could acquire this information by using anonymous surveys, which can help give you, as the instructor, an idea on how to slightly alter your course content.

The methods mentioned above are just a few ways that you can increase student engagement in your online course. Feel free to check out some of the supplemental materials below for more specific methods.