Suggestions for Learner Engagment
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Social presence is the basis of collaborative learning and the foundation for meaningful, constructivist learning online. In the context of online learning, social presence is described as the ability of learners to project themselves socially and emotionally as well as their ability to perceive other learners as ‘real people.’ (Boston, et al., 2010. P.68).
To support online learner engagement online instructors need to start with cultivating social presence in their online learning environments and in their interactions with individual participants and the class community as a whole. Modeling and facilitating activities that allow learners to explore and express their social presence is also a key to building trust, and creating an online learning community were participants feel they belong and are engaged.
To cultivate a sense of belonging and support online learner engagement online faculty can leverage the use of :
- Extemporaneous personalized videos
- Course Announcements
- Discussion Forums
- Individual Office hours
- Synchronous Interactions
- Social Media
Online instructors can leverage technologies to assist with and support engagement, such as:
- Phone calls and texts.
- Automated/timed announcements via the LMS, email, and text messages to nudge learner activity.
- Consistent planned nudges to systematically guide learners along the course learning path.
- Early Alerts – to help identify and address individual issues and provide supports, reports and notifications.
- Dedicated asynchronous/asynchronous interactions to target help-seeking, feedback, and study groups.
- Ways to leverage and incorporate the institutions’ online student supports services to mentor, guide, and support learners beyond the online classroom.
- Ways to provide easy to find access to institutional technology support.
Course Management Tips to Keep Online Learners Engaged
- Create expectations for appropriate behaviors, interactions and communications in your course.
- Co-create an Online Learning Community Agreement with your students. Developing an Online Learning Community Agreement is way to build a sense of trust and shared commitment to course norms in which all course participants can feel included, safe, and supported, and can trust that they will be seen, heard, and respected by all in the learning community, so all can pursue their online learning goals without barriers.
- Use the features or options in your course to make regular weekly announcements and post bulletin board items. These can be reminders, encouragements, recognitions, current events, observations. Such announcements help student feel your presence and feel connected.
- Check your course frequently, especially in the beginning. Immediately respond to questions or in discussions as appropriate.Your response/interaction gives your students a sense of security and lets them know everything is functioning correctly.
- Have all students create or use the personal profile feature in your learning management system as an additional means of introducing themselves to you and the class. Encourage them to share meaningful links and/or photos to create deeper connections. Acknowledge that not all students will feel comfortable with self-disclosure, so give them options to participate as is comfortable for them. For example, rather than a photo, sharing an avatar or a personally meaningful image.
- Early in the course check for and resolve technical, or user errors in any course posts, contributions, or documents.
- Check to see that students are responding in the appropriate locations within the course. If you see a problem, create an announcement to address the issue, or provide immediate corrective feedback to the students.
- In order to keep the class moving, make sure that there is something “new” for the students at least every 2-3 days. If students are not moving the discussion along, you might comment on existing responses, and invite students to respond again. Or, put a note in the course announcements area encouraging students to participate. If some students continue to remain silent, consider sending them a “encouraging” private message. (Perhaps ask if there is anything preventing them from participating at the moment, e.g., a trip, illness, technical difficulties etc.)
- Call on students by name.
- Be responsive.
- Create as many possibilities for student interaction as you can. Encouragement is the most effective strategy to increase participation.
- Dealing with “difficult/dominant” learners (in synchronous or asynchronous learning environments)
- Keep this in mind: Some people process information by “thinking” out loud. Others process internally before speaking.
- To manage course contributions equitably between both thinking styles, consider how you phrase your questions to prompt discussion and interaction.
- Start with broader questions: “What do you take away from this reading/video/presentation/position/case/ assignment?”
- To give others a chance: “Who has a different perspective?”
- To redirect: “It sounds like you have really thought about/are concerned about [X]. Let’s let someone else help explore that.”
- Let’s pin that thought for the moment, and we can pick it back up when we get to the next topic/discussion/session/etc.
- Don’t assume negative intent. Ask questions to understand the person and the situation, and help clarify expectations.
- Plan and prepare: Be prepared to mute an individual, communicate privately, move someone to a breakout room, or remove an individual from the class completely. Investigate and practice the features and settings so you are prepared and have a plan if you need to deal with a situation. Plan for contingencies.