Structure and Organization

In order 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.

Best Practices


  • Student engagement can be increased when learning is structured around collaborative experiences, measured by a rubric.
  • Rubrics are used to provide feedback on and to grade an array of student products, including concept maps, literature reviews, reflective writings, bibliographies, oral presentations, critical thinking, citation analyses, portfolios, projects and oral and written communication skills.
  • Students’ responsiveness to the focus and requirement of a learning activity – as measured by a rubric – is one of the most observable indications that a course is interactive and enables student engagement.
  • Students have the ability to use rubrics to plan an approach to an assignment, check their work and reflect on feedback from their peers and instructor.

Navigation and Consistency

  • Consistent navigation among departmental courses allow student to become more comfortable with distance learning.  The more comfortable the students become with distance formats, the more likely they are to participate both spontaneously and when required.
  • Studies have shown that the greater the consistency among course modules, the more satisfied students tend to be with their course, the more they perceive to have learned, and the more interaction they believe they have with their instructors.
  • Studies have also shown that the lower the number of modules in a course, the more students believed they learned from it.
  • For training on how to use the learning management system visit

Tools – don’t overload course, know tool

  • Don’t introduce a new tool into an online course until you are comfortable using it yourself.
  • Take into consideration whether a tool can allow students to work at their own pace, as there are many types of online students, with different needs (Beldarrain, 2006).
  • Use a blend of synchronous and asynchronous tools as appropriate, depending on the course and the students (Beldarrain, 2006; Chen, P-S. D. et al., 2009).

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  • Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance Education Trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27:2, 139-153, DOI: 10.1080/01587910600789498, available at
  • Chen, P-S. D., Lambert, A. D., & Guidry, K. R. (2009). Engaging online learners: The impact of Web-based learning technology on college student engagement, Computers & Education, 54 (4), pp. 1222-1232.
  • Reddy, Y.M, & Andrade, H. (2010). A review of rubric use in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 35:4, 435-448.
  • Swan, K. (2001). Virtual interaction: Design factors affecting student satisfaction and perceived learning in asynchronous online courses, Distance Education, 22:2, 306-331, DOI: 10.1080/0158791010220208, available at