3 Ways to Engage Online Students

Face-to-face students can ask questions and engage with instructors and peers without much effort. Online students do not have this luxury. It is the instructor’s responsibility to give leaners as many opportunities to interact with peers, the content, and themselves (the instructor) as possible. Here are three tips to get started.

Use Groups: Breaking online students into discussion groups of 5 or 6 may allow the students to build deeper connections and build lasting bonds with one another (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012). Further, it makes it much easier to keep up with each individual student’s activity.

Provide Feedback: Your students may not respond to your feedback, but they care that you are there. Provide post questions and comments on discussion boards, provide feedback via email, and detailed feedback on assignments. Let students know if they are on the right track. Doing this will help students stay engaged and show that you care (Palloff & Pratt, 2011). Your students will appreciate your engagement and may even respond to your posts.

Let Your Students Lead: Online students are often dedicated adults with experience in their field (Simonson, et al., 2012). Why not let students build their leadership skills and encourage them to pose discussion questions. Students will have some control of their leaning. Further, students have to dig deep into the materials to develop questions that will be engaging to their peers.

Online courses are wildly popular and will remain that way, if instructors continue to engage students. Keep this in mind the next time you log into the online courses you teach.



Reference cited for this article:

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2011). The Excellent Online Instructor: Strategies for Professional Development. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S.E., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. Boston: Pearson.

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