How to Foster Student Engagement in Online Courses

April 20, 2016 Melissa Altman-Traub

shutterstock_6643036_267065789_267065790_256224451.PNGThe second principle in Chickering and Gamson’s "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education" (1987) is to encourage active learning and student cooperation. Recent research has found that these principles apply to online courses as well. The Association of American Colleges and Universities’ High Impact Educational Practices such as collaborative learning and service learning can improve student retention and engagement.

Since students are accustomed to working independently in online classes (aside from using discussion boards), below are ways to implement effective collaborative learning strategies in your online course:

Group Projects 

Students get the opportunity to collaborate, help each other, and practice effective communication skills and time management, which are also essential career skills.

Peer Review of Assignments

Have your students swap assignments to review and provide feedback. The reviewers learn from the process, and the person who is being evaluated has the opportunity to improve his or her work before it is graded.

Student-to-Student Interviews 

Students can interview each other for a class introduction. Or they can ask each other about their baseline knowledge of a topic, what they have learned from assigned reading or their opinions about a current event.

Online Study Groups

Learners can choose their online study group partners, or you can assign them. An effective group task is to ask students to create sample test questions.

Student Engagement

Invite your class to volunteer, attend a seminar, participate in service learning events, or hear a relevant speaker on campus. Interacting with students outside of class is a great way to improve engagement.

Online Meetings

These may be optional or required. Survey your students to determine their availability for the online sessions, which may typically be in the evenings. You can use this time to review challenging course material, present short lectures, discuss student projects or hold Q&A sessions.

What techniques do you use to foster collaboration in online courses? Let us know in the comments below.

Image Credit/Source: Michal Popiel/Shutterstock

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