Strategies for Engaging Students Online

In the shift to online learning, how can we create opportunities for learner engagement through the types of activities that are familiar in our face to face classrooms? Much in the same way as in our face to face classrooms, in an online, active learning environment, students interact with the course material through: reading, writing, talking, problem-solving, synthetical thinking, constructing, deconstructing, and reflecting. Content driven lectures have a place, as well, and the online environment presents instructors with opportunities to imagine activities that will help learners develop a deeper and more authentic understanding of the lecture content that is shared and shaped with feedback.

Ideally, rather than completing these activities in isolation, learners are given opportunities to work collaboratively and receive feedback from one another as well as the instructor. The dynamic that occurs through shared, constructive feedback and collaboration helps to form a learning environment rooted in connection and community.

Community of Inquiry Model

The Community of Inquiry model describes the core elements that we need to attend to when designing engaging, online and hybrid learning experiences: Social Presence, Cognitive Presence, and Teaching Presence.

Venn diagram showing the elements of the Community of Inquiry model

Social Presence

Social presence is defined as “a level of connectedness among instructors and students that determines how motivated participants are to take an active role in their own and their peers’ meaning-making processes” (Whitside, Dikkers, & Lewis, 2014). Below, we share key elements for designing for social presence, as well as some sample activities that you might use to incorporate social presence into your course design.

Design Elements

Activities

Communication
Group Cohesion
  • Ask students to share how they’re feeling in a meme
  • Ask students to help develop community standards
  • Create an AMA (Ask Me Anything) or class café discussion board
Collaboration
  • Have students work together in teams to compete in a light-hearted way against each other.
  • Group presentations or projects

Cognitive Presence

Cognitive presence is defined as “the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001, 2004). Below, we share key elements for designing for cognitive presence, as well as some sample activities that you might use to incorporate cognitive presence into your course design.

Design Elements

Activities

Challenge or question Ask students to pose questions based on the readings (this could be done via discussion forum or as a shared annotation exercise)
Exploration of problem Ask students to perform research around a question or topic, and share their list of resources and brief summaries in a discussion forum
Proposing solutions
  • Give students the opportunity to annotate resources which propose solutions to a given problem
  • Ask students to work together to propose solutions based on their research
Resolution Provide a reflective journal assignment in which students are prompted to resolve a problem and/or reflect on their learning

Teaching Presence

Teaching presence is defined as “the design, facilitation, and direction of the social and cognitive processes for the purpose of realizing the relevant learning outcomes” (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001). Below, we share key elements for designing for teaching presence, as well as some sample activities that you might use to incorporate teaching presence into your course design.

Design Elements

Activities

Instructor Guidance
  • Have a clear structure for weekly activities (& communicate to students)
  • Have clear expectations for student work (& communicate to students)
Building Understanding
  • Record short videos with presentations of content
  • Feedback on assignments (this can be audio or video, too)
  • Jump into discussion board to share observations or adjusting questions
Motivating
  • Let students know when things are going well
  • Build-in low stakes challenges, light-hearted competition, and silly rewards.

Active Learning Approaches

There are many specific approaches that you can take to create learning activities and environments that resonate with the Community of Inquiry model. Below, we offer resources for you to explore some of these approaches.

Experiential Learning

Project-Based Learning

  • Buck Institute for Education PBL Works (great resource for all things project-based learning)
  • Free online platforms that support PBL
    • ArcGIS (story mapping works especially well as a PBL assignment, Middlebury ITS-supported)
    • Raptor Lab (science-inquiry, UMN)
    • WeExplore (multimedia storytelling, UMN)

Game-Based Learning

Some materials on this page adapted from the Muhlenberg College Digital Learning Team, under a CC-BY-NC license.

Featured photo by Iris Wang on Unsplash

Is a Video Enough? Considering Instructor Presence and Social Presence in Online Courses

Recently, DLINQ convened a conversation with Middlebury Institute for International Studies faculty around online/hybrid learning challenges and opportunities, and we asked the group to share words that come to mind when they think about online learning. The participants shared a mix of positive and negative attributes related to their experiences with online learning, ranging from …

Continue reading "Is a Video Enough? Considering Instructor Presence and Social Presence in Online Courses"

2020-05-29T08:35:59-07:00May 14th, 2020|