12 Online Student Engagement Resources for Faculty Using Courseware

Written by: Christie Forgette

Student engagement is essential for academic success in any learning modality. Although courseware and other digital learning tools provide many benefits, student engagement in online learning environments can be an unfamiliar challenge. 

For example, faculty using online learning platforms for the first time may have trouble building a sense of community in that environment. They may find that students using courseware—whether during in-person classes or in fully remote or hybrid classes—have increased distractions, problems with accessibility, or less access to verbal and social cues. 

Student engagement can be defined in many ways, but it involves students’ emotional, behavioral, and cognitive connection to their learning. Students are engaged when they have agency in the course structure and content. Facilitating students’ connections to the material, to their peers, and to the instructors are key steps toward that goal.

Below are several resources for instructors working to improve student engagement when using courseware or when in other online learning environments. The resources are organized roughly from the most comprehensive to the most immediately practical.

Starting Points for Online Student Engagement

Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty
This book provides a student engagement model for instructors of all disciplines to follow, as well as practical tips, strategies, and techniques that help students engage in their classroom. The second edition emphasizes online learning and discusses how to implement student engagement techniques in online courses. 

An Online Engagement Framework for Higher Education
The authors of this article in OLJ, the Online Learning Consortium’s journal, present a conceptual framework developed from previous literature. The framework outlines indicators of five elements of online engagement. The authors also provide a guide for putting the framework into practice in an online classroom. 

A Balancing Act: A Window into Online Student Engagement Experiences
This study, published in the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, follows 24 students’ online learning experiences over one academic year. Using data collected from these students’ learning portfolios and interviews, the researchers suggest five central themes that are tied to a student’s engagement with an online course: peer community, module supports, studying while balancing life commitments, confidence, and approach to learning.   

List of Helpful Student Engagement Research Studies
Missouri Online (an administrative support office for online courses in the University of Missouri system) curated a collection of research studies that examine student engagement. This collection includes studies covering all aspects of online engagement, from articles on students’ perceptions of engagement strategies to articles providing suggestions for engaging students in asynchronous online courses. 

Practical Guides to Online Student Engagement

Online Teaching: Angelo State University
Angelo State University created an open course on designing, developing, and implementing an online class. Although the whole resource is useful, section 4.1 particularly talks about student engagement strategies and includes an online discussion rubric.

Muhlenberg College: Camp Design Online
Muhlenberg College has put together a course, “Camp Design Online,” for designing online classes. The course has an “Engagement” section that includes a discussion of how to choose a platform online to encourage collaboration, how to engage all learners, and how to plan for accessibility.  

Carnegie Mellon University Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation
The Eberly Center’s resource page on hybrid and remote teaching includes sections on “Building and Sustaining Community” and “Creating Active Learning.” These sections list specific strategies for engaging students. Particularly useful are the techniques, like think-vote-share and concept mapping, for creating active learning. The authors list advantages of each technique, tools needed, and considerations for implementation. 

Western Sydney University Online Engagement and Teaching Hub
Western Sydney University has an Online Engagement and Teaching Hub with several resources, strategies, tips, and guides, including an Online Engagement Framework. The framework incorporates five elements of online engagement (social engagement, cognitive engagement, behavioral engagement, collaborative engagement, and emotional engagement) and lists indicators as well as strategies and tools for each element. 

Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning
Recommendations to Increase Student Engagement in Online Courses was developed by Northern Illinois University faculty and staff to increase student engagement in online courses. The resource discusses building motivation through course content, creating a faculty presence, and forming an inclusive learning community. 

Webinar Presentations about Engagement

The Basics of Online Student Engagement and Online Instructor Presence
This presentation from the Columbia University School of Social Work focuses on engaging students online and covers some of the basic tools that can be used, such as webcam, chat, polling, and breakout rooms.

Engage! Using Adaptive Courseware and Digital Technology to Enhance Student Learning
This Every Learner Everywhere webinar focuses on adaptive courseware in face-to-face classes and on how to use digital learning technology to interact with students. It features the instructors of an introductory chemistry course at Colorado State University sharing their experience focusing on student engagement via adaptive courseware.

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