This series is about how teachers can improve engagement for online learners (see links below for previous posts in the series). All forms of education require learners to engage, but when teachers and their students are separated by geographical distance, the challenges increase.
This post is about improving student engagement in asynchronous
modes - which can be forgotten in the rush to connect with video. And yet asynchronous modes of online learning can be as equally powerful as synchronous methods. For the uninitiated, synchronous communication occurs in the same timeframe, and interaction is more or less simultaneous (think video, telephone or live text). Asynchronous communication is time-shifted - e-mail, text messages and standard mail (correspondence courses were one of the first forms of distance education).
Here are seven ways you can increase engagement in asynchronous online learning:
1. First, and most importantly, keep discussion going! Interaction between students, and with their teacher, is vital to maintain engagement and also to create a learning community
. Encourage the group to regularly share their ideas, discuss their hopes and concerns, promote their content and celebrate their successes.
2. Make interaction with content interesting. The use of hyperlinks and hypermedia
(e.g. embedded video) give flat content an added dimension, enabling students to dig deeper if they so desire. Encourage additional personal research by adding activities linked to content (see below).
3. Create opportunities for students to ask questions, either via an online forum, or direct to you using e-mail or other asynchronous communication. Don't forget to respond promptly - the immediacy of your reply can increase social presence and motivation.
4. Promote creative writing using blog challenges such as #Blimage
as visual prompts (the latter involves unlikely pairings of people to provoke imagination. I'm particularly proud of my bizarre combination of Maria von Trapp and Socrates
). Give the students licence to write imaginatively to express their ideas, while at the same time developing their thinking.
5. Present students with problems or challenges to solve. A strategically placed quiz, will not only test their memory, but might trigger some additional motivation, and will also give you some indication of their learning. Engaging with problems enables them to apply the knowledge they have gained from the content into direct practice.
6. Set up collaborative writing exercises around course content. This can be done using shared digital spaces such as group blogs, wikis or Google Docs. The negotiation and teamwork required adds a new dimension to the engagement; the smaller the groups/teams, the better.
7. Ask students to produce something that can be performed or shown online. This could be a podcast, video, blog, or multi-media presentation such as a slide show. A number of transferrable skills need to be developed to do this successfully.Previous posts in this seriesEngaging online learners 1: Collaborative spacesEngaging online learners 2: 5 Phase modelEngaging online learners 3: 5 Step ModelEngaging online learners 4: Synchronous online learningSee also
Free online course: Supporting Online Learners
Engaging online learners 5 by Steve Wheeler
was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Posted by Steve Wheeler from Learning with e's