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3 Ways to Keep Students and Instructors Engaged in Online Courses

  • 3 Min Read

Mid-America Christian University's Dr. Laurie Ward talks about simulating an on-ground classroom experience online.

While online learning is convenient, there are many things a curriculum designer creating an online static course still needs to consider:

  • The type of student you’re trying to reach.
  • The amount of time typical students have to dedicate to assignments, discussion boards, projects, and assessments.
  • The amount of time instructors have to effectively grade and provide feedback to each of their students for assignments and discussions.
  • The quality of assignments and how they reflect measurable objectives.
  • The intent and rigor of required work assigned to students.
  • How courses and curriculum are designed in light of quickly changing online learning environments.

One particularly important consideration designers should make, however, is the component of engagement between instructor and student, as well as student to student, that can often get lost in the digital interactions of an online course environment; it’s just not as easy for students and instructors to engage in one-to-one conversations online as it is in a real-world classroom.

However, with more resources becoming available in online learning environments, the ability to replicate an on-ground classroom environment that facilitates those kinds of conversations is becoming increasingly plausible.

Here are three ways to create an on-ground classroom environment that will keep students and instructors engaged in an online course:

Discussion Board Posts and Responses

As an online-driven university, the challenge of engagement in static online courses is one we at Mid-America Christian University confront each time we design, revise, or implement a course. We try to create the on-ground experience by simulating one-on-one interactions and engagements between students and instructors.

We have found that the discussion boards provide a safe environment for students to express opinions and individual discoveries while also receiving feedback from peers and the instructor. Discussion boards simulate the on-ground classroom experience by giving the student an outlet to show and prove their understanding of the material and to ask questions for clarification from their peers and the instructor.

Live video interactions: Instructor to student and student to student

Using video platform Bongo, we found that we could facilitate real-time, face-to-face interactions between students and instructors. We also found that we could provide the instructor with a way to engage with students asynchronously while simultaneously creating a personal experience for the students participating in the presentation as it’s happening.

Communication between instructors, curriculum designers, and build team

It became obvious that our static online courses would need to be modified as technology and resources become available and new content due to textbook revisions was required. We also determined we needed a way to track and record the changes that instructors and students identified while instructing or participating in the course.  Help desk tickets were identified as the best way to inform the Instructional Technology and Course Build Team that modifications were needed and to confirm the completion of changes made to the courses.

Using online tools to replicate the kind of dialogue enabled by a real-world classroom experience is a great way to keep students engaged with teachers and each other. To learn more about how to create an on-ground experience in an online classroom environment register for Fusion 2017 and check out the session “How to Promote and Maintain Student and Instructor Engagement in Static Online Courses” with Dr. Laurie Ward on Thursday, July 20th.


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