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    Suggestions for Learner Engagment
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Teach Online:
Suggestions for Learner Engagment

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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.
Problem Description Solutions
Spam Self-serving communications are sent to all course participants, such as advertisements and sales pitches. Co-create an online community agreement to establish guidelines.

Set clear expectations about what types of non-academic communications can be sent, guidelines for appropriateness, and where/how such communications can be posted, or distributed.

Create a Student Lounge/Class Community/Coffee House Forum, where non-academic interaction is permitted.

Document: hide vs. delete offensive communications. Screen shot with date/time.

Bombs Posts or messages designed to provoke, disrupt, or generate angry responses. Some courses deal directly with controversial topics, such as abortion, gun control, politics, current events, war, military, racism, death penalty, religion, gender/sexuality, parenting, mental health, or culture-related customs. Or, controversial topics may come up, or be brought up in courses where there are diverse contexts/views and agendas among the participants. Co-create an online community agreement to establish guidelines on tolerance and respect in interactions.

Set clear expectations about what is acceptable and appropriate in your course. Provide clear guidance on how to interact around topics where there may be controversy, or where there may be strong differences in beliefs, or opinion.

Clearly state process for dealing with infractions, and consequences.

Document: hide vs. delete offensive communications. Screen shot with date/time.

Small Stuff An undue focus on pointing out grammatical errors/typos, and infractions committed by others while neglecting a focus on contributing substantively to course content, activities, and concepts can be distracting, inappropriate, and hinder learning. Co-create an online community agreement to establish roles, responsibilities, and clear expectations about acceptable interactions.

Set any additional clear expectations.

A rubric can help learners keep their interactions focused course content and concepts.

Provide immediate direct coaching and redirection to discourage these types of interactions when they first occur.

Not Following Directions Repeatedly failing to mute phones during synchronous discussions, or to give meaningful subjects to posts, or to read instructions, or to respond out of turn, or without reading previous posts. Co-create an online community agreement to establish community agreements.

Set any additional clear expectations.

A rubric with associated points can reinforce specific expectations and requirements.

Too much noise. Not enough signal: Async. Repeatedly going off on tangents that disrupt or distract from the course content, concepts, or objectives. Provide clear instructions and expectations for course activities and interactions.

Use a rubric that provides clear criteria.

Provide a model for students to follow.

Provide immediate direct coaching, correction, and/or redirection to help discourage these types of interactions when they first occur.

Create a space in the course where tangential topics are welcome.

Too much noise. Not enough signal: Sync. Repeatedly going off on tangents that disrupt or distract from the course content, concepts, or objectives. Set clear expectations for the use of chat, emojis, private messages, hand raising, and un-muting.

Use a rubric that provides clear criteria.

At the start of the course provide low stakes opportunities to practice interacting and using the features and approaches you will use in the course.

Provide immediate feedback to guide interactions.

Create a time or space in the course where tangential topics are welcome. Ask students to post in a special course forum, or to pin a topic to a Jamboard to park an idea for later.

Late Arriving late for synchronous interactions, or posting at the end of a 2-week discussion is disruptive, and interferes with everyone’s learning. Co-create an online community agreement to establish community agreements including class start times.

Set any additional clear expectations and consequences.

Use a rubric that provides clear criteria.

Don’t have any expectations that you don’t follow.

Attacks Any sort of abusive or emotional attack on another person in the course. Co-create an online community agreement to establish clear expectations about acceptable interactions.

Set any additional clear expectations and consequences for 0 tolerance behaviors.

You may need to immediately address an offense, so have a plan on how you will mute, remove, eject, report, and reprimand if you have to, and how to discuss the issue with the class.

Document: hide vs. delete offensive communications. Screen shot with date/time.

Dominant Regularly dominating or controlling course interactions, without regards for others. Co-create an online community agreement to establish expectations about acceptable interactions.

Set any additional clear expectations.

A rubric can help guide the quality and quantity of interactions. Loosing points for certain behaviors can help learners understand expectations.

Consider alternative ways of inviting discussion, and how you phrase or redirect questions. See examples in the bullets above. 

Provide immediate direct coaching and redirection to discourage these types of interactions when they first occur.

You may need to address an interaction/s that get/s out of hand. A private conversation may be required to resolve the issue. Have a plan if the situation persists or escalates.

Document: hide vs. delete offensive communications. Screen shot with date/time.

Last Minute Repeatedly delaying and doing everything at the last minute. Don’t assume anything. Reach out to see if everything is ok.

Set clear expectations for activities and assignments.

Use a rubric to guide the quality and quantity and timeliness of interactions. Loosing points for certain behaviors can help learners understand expectations.

Provide immediate direct coaching and feedback to discourage late/last minute behavior when they first occur.

Adapted from https://www.angelo.edu/live/files/17482-classroom-management-strategiespdf

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