Quality learning occurs when students grapple with concepts in a meaningful way. There is no single “correct” way to do this, but good strategies help students connect with each other and the content.
1. Make your expectations of student performance clear and consistent. Be organized.
- Students stay on task and engage more effectively when they know what you expect of them.
- Provide consistent deadlines and delivery of content.
- Use weekly or modular objectives to define learning expectations.
2. Provide them with methods and means to engage – and support their learning of them.
- Use Discussion forums, chats, Q&A threads, VoiceThreads, comments, polls, etc.
- Include “how to” information for any new technologies.
- Be a good example—demonstrate how they can join in.
3. Assess them frequently to keep their attention.
- Incentivize participation through low-stakes (or extra credit) tasks on a consistent basis.
- Include participation—with explicit expectations—as part of the course grade.
4. Give them real problems to solve.
- Case studies are fantastic teaching tools and allow students to apply critical thinking, new knowledge, and make real-world connections to concepts.
- Include inquiry-based discovery (e.g., research projects or field data collection).
5. Provide opportunity for them to engage with each other.
- Study groups, team projects, or simply require them to respond to other students’ discussion comments.
6. Ask them to teach their peers.
- Group or individual projects are designed to have them learn and lead discussions or give presentations to the class.
- Use their input to design further assessments (student-led questions on exams, etc).
7. Most Importantly: Demonstrate your own engagement.
- Communicate on the forums (respond to your students in a public setting). Share relevant outside materials.
- Let them know why you are interested in the topics you teach. Get personal.
- Provide them with feedback on their progress.
- Be an active participant in your course!