Teaching Hub

Engaging Students in Online Courses

by Alecia Chatham, Department of Modern Languages and Classics

Student completing homework onlineKeeping students engaged online is definitely challenging. It is a balancing act between engaging and distracting learners! As mentioned in previous posts, the types of questions you ask and how you ask them (for example, timed/un-timed responses) are very important.

My strategy for student engagement includes dividing assignments into a variety of shorter tasks. Instead of having one long exercises with twenty questions, I will have two exercises with ten questions each, sometimes with 3-6 different question types. These require students to consult their notes and texts for vocabulary, grammar, and translations. They are given multiple attempts but not unlimited, which means they must learn the information well, just as they would for an in-person session where they must answer in front of their peers. I also assign one quiz and essay, all pertaining to the book chapter and corresponding lecture.

My lectures are brief and focused — only 5-20 minutes long. I introduce a new concept, demonstrate it with examples that are similar if not the same as the first few questions on their assignments, and then encourage them to try it. A couple of vivid, relevant pictures are never a bad idea either.