Curious about how to increase student engagement in your online course? Whether you’re mid-course design or you're already teaching, the following tasks are actionable, simple to integrate, and represent a variety of ways to increase engagement in your course!
Link to your social media feeds. Meet your students where they are. Many of your students are likely already following their personal and career interests on social media. Sharing your social media feeds within your course is a great way to deliver in-the-now information via a familiar platform.
Capture current events in an interactive way. Rather than posting a link to an article on a recent current event, record a video to capture your own thoughts and interactions with the resource. Post the recording in a discussion or announcement as a way to spark conversation. Your recording could help set the tone of a discussion by supplying a model for your students. In general, utilizing videos in an asynchronous course space reminds students that there is a person on the other side of the screen.
Use Course Analytics to identify students who are less engaged. In an on-ground course, students can give visual cues that they are disengaged: looking out the window, not participating in class discussions, and so on. In the online environment, Course Analytics can help you to identify students who are disengaged and give you an opportunity to reach out. Course Analytics lets you see the number times students have posted in discussions, what time students post, and how often assignments are submitted early or late. All of this information can provide insight into students' engagement.
Identify digital-first — digital-only — students. Do you have a student who is not responding to messages, coming to virtual office hours, or answering phone calls? These may be digital-first, or digital-only, students. Digital-only students are actively engaged with the course, but participate solely through digital formats. Review the course data for your student to determine if they are actively participating in the course. Once a student is identified as digital-only, you might consider meeting this student where they are and reaching out solely through the online platform.
Post announcements and check in with your students. Use announcements to check-in with your students. We recommend posting an announcement 1-2 times a week. Regular announcements can help you to build community and rapport with your students, leading to increased engagement and a better overall experience. Announcements give you an opportunity to take the temperature of the class halfway through and students a channel to give feedback. You can use announcements to remind students of upcoming deadlines, guide them through required readings, and connect what they are learning to real-world events.
Create a culture of connection. In an on-ground course, students use visual and spatial cues to assess classroom culture. In an online course space, it is important to state your expectations for students upfront. Consider creating a teaching statement and including the following information:
- How formal do you want to be?
- How will you share information from outside the classroom?
- Are there customs or routines in your class?
- When can students expect to find you online?
- What are the turnaround times on assignments?
- What level of rigor is expected?
Suggest notifications for students. In most Learning Management Systems, users can customize their notifications. Post suggestions based on the way your course is structured and you plan to communicate out. Among other things, you might encourage students to sign up for text notifications for discussion posts. Text prompts can encourage students to jump into a discussion as it is occurring. Provide guides or links to students when available.
Highlight featured discussion forums and posts. If you see a particularly interactive forum or post, highlight it! Featuring discussions can help students understand your expectations and set the tone of the course.
Create games and competition. Name and award a weekly discussion champion. Competition can cultivate interest and commitment, increasing overall levels of engagement. You can choose the champion or encourage students to vote for a champion themselves. You might also look for helpful tools in your Learning Management System. For example, Canvas has a liking feature that can be enabled in discussions; this feature could be used to sort your discussion by likes and identify the weekly champion.
Be entertaining! Set the tone for your classroom by showcasing your expertise and personality. Are you witty? Quirky? Bring that to your course space! Create a unique sign-off or embrace the language of emoticons. Provide relevant content in your posts and announcements, and don't be afraid to challenge your students through lively discussion and debate.