Engaging Students

Plan Your Course | Build Your Course | Engage Students | Assess Students | Ensure Accessibility

In the section:


Designing student learning activities

In online delivery it possible to provide engaging opportunities through active learning strategies. These include:

  • Discussions
  • Collaborative Group Projects
  • Presentations
  • Breakout discussions

Active learning and student engagement activities are possible in both synchronous and asynchronous environments. There are numerous benefits of using active learning activities to engage students:

  • Motivates students to be engaged learners
  • Increases content knowledge, critical thinking and recall of course content
  • Allows for inclusion of different learning needs
  • Gets students involved in higher order thinking such as analysis, synthesis, creative thinking, adaptability, problem-solving, etc.

To facilitate your thinking about active learning and student engagement:

If your course has a lab component there are specialized tips and strategies for designing virtual offerings:

Key Concepts:

Facilitating Discussions

Consider:

  • Start by creating shared norms for participation and setting the stage and tone of the class discussion.
  • Allow students to suggest / contribute to the ground rules for online discussions
  • Provide prompts or goals that encourage discussion to guide learning.
  • Whether in a text discussion forum or a live break out, be sure to monitor activity and provide feedback.

Try this:

  • Create group discussions for large classes.
  • Ask students to relate the main topic of the week to their own experience as a starting point.
  • Ask students to find an example related of the topic in the media and share a response.
  • Post a fact, quote, or question, and ask students to apply a theory or explain that particular example.
  • Invite your liaison librarian to participate on class discussion boards as a resource or host online drop-in sessions.

How to:

Collaborative Group Projects

Consider:

  • Group projects facilitate authentic learning experiences and generation of sharable digital resources.
  • The digital environment provides an opportunity for students to gain valuable transferable skills.

Try this:

  • Create a course wiki by having class participants build an online repository of course documents where instructors and students can post relevant documents, tips, news, etc.
  • Provide a problem scenario to solve related to the topic of the course. The output could be a digital design document, policy recommendation or lab protocol, depending on the subject matter.
  • Move a case study activity to the online environment; include a video or web site as a prompt.

How to:

Presentations

Consider:

  • Online synchronous presentations provide an opportunity for students to develop oral communication skills in the online environment.
  • Digital presentations help student develop new visual communication skills.

Try this:

  • Students (individuals or groups) record a voice-over presentation to be shared with the whole class by posting to discussion forum.
  • Consider presentation options including PowerPoint, video or infographic to explain a key concept to their peers.
  • Have students write a short text assignment and share it for peer feedback using the Quercus peer feedback tool.

How to:

Breakout Discussions

Consider:

  • Holding a live webinar session offers real-time connection between instructor and student as well as student-to-student interaction.
  • A live webinar session can provide a social community experience.
  • There may be a need for recordings or alternatives for students with logistical challenges related to time zone or bandwidth.
  • Provide the opportunity for text chat since not all students are comfortable sharing using a mic and/or webcam.
  • Group discussion can be set up for use as asynchronous breakout rooms.

Try this:

  • Using Bb Collaborate, assign students to small groups where the students can work collaboratively to solve a problem, discuss and debate topic points, or prepare a presentation. [guide]
  • Divide students into groups in discussion forums. [guide]
  • Invite students to take various roles such as leading the discussion, prompting their peers, or preparing summary notes.

How to:

 

Developed collaboratively by the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation and Online Learning Strategies – Information Technology Services at the University of Toronto (April 14, 2020).