UNT Online

10 Tips to Engage Students Online

Back to teachanywhere.unt.edu

Creating a positive and engaged learning climate is crucial to student success in any classroom environment, but particularly online where the absence of physical presence and direct sensory feedback can exacerbate uncertainty and insecurity. Read on for 10 tips for engaging students online from DSI CLEAR.

  • 1. Communicate Regularly and Often

    Use the Announcements tool to regularly communicate to the whole class about:

    • reminders for upcoming assignments and events
    • turn around on assignment grading and feedback
    • supplemental resources for course content
    • current events that connect with course content and highlight relevancy
    • clarification on content where students seem to be struggling
    • course success tips such as best ways to prepare for assignments and assessments
  • 2. Make Expectations Clear

    Establish communication expectations upfront. See CLEAR’s webpage, Online Communication Tips, for some quick tips for students regarding online communication best practices, including email and discussion boards. You are welcome to link to this page in your course or copy the content directly into your course.

  • 3. Ensure Ease of Navigation

    The first experience students have in your online course can make a huge impact on the remainder of the class. A well-organized course helps make the course manageable for both you and your students. DSI CLEAR recommends a module/unit/weekly structure that is repeated throughout the course. A consistent structure helps students know what to expect when moving from one unit of study to the next. Explain the structure to students and keep in mind the number of clicks it will take to move from one area to the next.

  • 4. Practice Seeing Things from the Student Perspective

    Use the Student View feature to see how students experience and navigate your course. This can also help you troubleshoot navigation issues students may experience and make adjustments to facilitate learning.

  • 5. Create a Discussion Plan Strategy

    Facilitating online discussions requires more upfront planning than face-to-face discussions. See the Teaching Commons article, Facilitating Classroom Discussion: A Guide, for tips on how to plan discussions. If you teach larger classes, you will want to account for how you can respond to discussions in a manageable way. Consider how your TAs can contribute and using alternative tools such as short videos using Zoom or announcements to respond to class discussions according to overall themes as opposed to individual student contributions.

  • 6. Promote “Casual Interaction”

    Use the discussion forums to allow students to talk casually with each other by setting up a general discussion thread for students to share ideas and talk about things that are not necessarily course related. Casual discussion areas do not have to be limited to students, though. Instructors can use these areas, as well, to encourage the kind of small talk that might typically go on in the face-to-face classroom before or after class. Discussion of things like current events or popular books and movies can be ways for people to get to know each other better and become more comfortable.

  • 7. Hold Virtual Office Hours

    Use the UNT supported virtual meeting tool, Zoom, to hold virtual office hours. You can schedule regular weekly times you are available just like you would face-to-face, and students can drop in as needed. Zoom has a waiting room feature that allows you to meet with students individually or in smaller groups.

  • 8. Survey Students with CATs

    Use the Quizzes tool to regularly survey students about their learning experience in your class. CATs, or classroom assessment techniques, enable instructors to gauge the ongoing student learning experience and make adjustments as needed rather than after the fact.

  • 9. Expand Your Lectures

    In Zoom, you can share your screen with students for online lectures and meetings, as well as demonstrations and tutorials. You can also record your sessions so that your students and you can reference them later.

  • 10. Enable Students to Form Their Own Groups

    Use the Groups feature to allow students to form their own study groups or to work on group projects together. See the Canvas Instructional Guide for a tutorial.

Additional Resources

  1. The DSI CLEAR digital resource, Online Teaching, provides a variety of online teaching tips and information including delivering exams online, accessibility online, and more.
  2. DSI CLEAR’s website, Teaching Commons, provides a series of articles on Online Course Design and Online Teaching.
  3. The UNT Teaching Excellence Handbook includes a section for Teaching Online.