Keeping Online Courses Challenging and Engaging


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) tend to be a little more difficult than traditional classrooms, both for students and for teachers. This is usually due to the lack of face-to-face interaction, which, for some students, can decrease motivation and make the class feel less authentic than a “real” in-person course. As a teacher, it can understandably be frustrating to detect this lack of interest or engagement. Thankfully, there are a few tricks you can utilize in this situation that will keep students involved and make the course more challenging.

1. Stay Engaged as a Teacher

If you want students to communicate and stay involved with your online course, it’s imperative that you do so yourself. As a teacher (especially one with multiple courses and numerous students), it’s easy to stick to the basics when teaching a course online: posting lectures and assignments, grading the assignments, posting exams and then grading the exams. Teaching a course online is the type of situation where you get what you give, though – in general, students who take online courses will be as involved and interested as you are. So start discussions, schedule group chats, and be fully involved in your own courses.

2. Schedule Live Lectures

If you have time, try scheduling a few live lectures throughout the semester to create a virtual classroom environment that more closely mirrors the “real life” setting they’re used to. You can grade students on their attendance to ensure they’ll show up. There are many websites and types of software available to make this process easy for students. It’s likely that your school already uses one, so check with administration about how to use it.

3. Require Collaboration Among Students

While many students dislike “group projects,” some form of collaboration is necessary to ensure that students are putting as much effort into their online course as they would an in-person one. Keep in mind that without some type of collaboration, students in online courses might never interact with or meet each other at all. There are many ways to incorporate collaborative elements into the online course, and you can utilize more than one. Some examples are:

  • Discussions: You might require students to actively engage in online discussions throughout the semester. Some teachers grade based on how many times a student posts, but it’s usually best to use a more subjective grading policy. Otherwise, students are likely to post responses with the least amount of effort.

  • Group chats: Online software like Slack allows users to message each other and send files, all in one place. You can schedule group chats to discuss what you’ve been learning in class. Make attendance mandatory for optimum class participation.

  • Group projects: While group projects are not always the most well-liked, they are a great way to ensure that your students are communicating and building critical teamwork skills. For the best results, require a group project or task that requires students to apply the information taught in your class. Practical application of knowledge is another useful way to keep students engaged and ensure that they’re retaining the material.

Online courses can be just as challenging and engaging as in-person courses. By using these simple tricks, you can keep your students interested in your course and ensure they receive the full value of what they signed up for.

Higher Ed, Residence Life

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