“Results suggest that multiple communication channels may be related to higher engagement and that student-student and instructor-student communication are clearly strongly correlated with higher student engagement with the course, in general.
Thus, advice for online instructors is still to use active learning but to be sure to incorporate meaningful and multiple ways of interacting with students and encouraging/requiring students to interact with each other.”
Dixson, M. (2010). Creating Effective Student Engagement in Online Courses: What Do Students Find Engaging?. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning,
So often I have been witness to organisations who, delighted in their acquisition of their new online learning technologies, gather and upload all of their powerpoints and documents and produce what they refer to as an ‘online course’. Sadly, the learners in these courses aren’t getting as good a deal as their peers undertaking the same course in a face-to-face classroom.
Online educators need to move away from the information dump and online textbook approach. An online course is not simply a distance course that has been tailored for online delivery.
Online learning materials are prepared very differently from materials used in a classroom. Just because something works very well in a face-to-face classroom does not mean that it will work as well in the online environment.
Online courses have their own instructional method and by incorporating opportunities for support, communication, collaboration, active learning and participation into the design of their course, the educator can create a course that engages the learner in their learning experience.
When designing your online course, build in ways to actively engage the learners. Learning management systems come with their own set of in-built synchronous and asynchronous tools such as chat rooms, discussion boards, messaging, surveys, quizzes, polling and wikis. Creative and appropriate use of these tools not only increases learner engagement but also learner motivation and retention. The tools are there for you – how you use them will determine the success of your course.
The role of the online ‘teacher’ is very different to that of the classroom teacher. In fact, the word ‘teacher’ is seldom used in the online environment. Instead the teacher becomes a facilitator and guide of the learning journey. As such, the design of the online course should allow the learner to engage in the learning content whilst incorporating opportunities for interaction with the educator and peers.
Part 2 of this article will look at some practical ways of increasing learner engagement in your online course.