Student Engagement in Online Learning

What is Student Engagement?

Student engagement can be thought of as the amount of time and effort college students put into their courses. Engagement is positively related to high grades, student satisfaction, and persistence. In the classroom, student engagement is measured in four different categories: Academic Challenge, Learning with Peers, Experiences with Faculty, and Campus Environment (NSSE, 2015). In the online environment, students engage in similar ways, and in general are as engaged (and sometimes more engaged) than campus-based students. The four categories below will explain how to design your online course to encourage these four types of online engagement (Chen, Gonyea, & Kuh, 2008).

Academic Rigor when Teaching Online

When adequately challenged, students typically put more time and effort into their online course materials.  As with any course, when students are engaged, there is greater opportunity for learning. When designing content for an online environment, activities and assessments should focus on higher-order learning levels, promote reflective learning, and most importantly, align with and measure course goals and objectives.

Peer-to-Peer Interaction in Online Community

Student success in an online course is ultimately determined by many factors; however, instructors must design assessments that ensure a student does not feel isolated in the virtual classroom.  When developing course assessments, instructors should take into consideration assignments that require students to interact with one another, as well as the course content.  When students are given the opportunity – and requirement – to interact with each other through activities such as discussions, peer reviews, and group assignments, they are more likely to feel like part of a community and become engaged with the course. By offering students several modalities for communication, they are better able to develop meaningful connections with each other, the instructor, and the content.

Faculty Interaction in Online Community

Community in online courses is evidenced in a course where the players, students and instructors, feel connected with each other through the use of various mediums online, and in a course where the players are concerned in likeness for academic success.  (Wallace, 2003)

Instructors have an important role to manage the flow of content, and support social interaction in a course. When instructors actively participate in their course, they typically find an increase in student engagement. Research has shown significant correlations between strong instructor presence and higher student participation as well as increased student satisfaction. Instructors can interact with their students in a variety of ways including: prompt assignment feedback, engaging in student discussions, and announcements.

Structure and Organization when Teaching Online

To facilitate student engagement in online learning, online courses must be consistent in structure and organization. Manageable groupings of content should be created and each content group should have a similar layout, aesthetic design, and language. When content is delivered in such a way, students are able to easily navigate through the course and interact with the subject material. This allows students the ability to find all of the necessary instructional materials in order to meet the learning objectives.