adult studying online March 14

Student Engagement Strategies for the Online Learning Environment

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During the past year and a half, our faculty development unit has been gathering data from students about how engaged they felt in their online courses. We wanted to use this data to develop a variety of strategies for faculty to use to better engage their students. Research provides evidence for the connection between higher student engagement and persistence and retention in online programs (Boston, et al., 2010; Wyatt, 2011). Encouraging student engagement is especially important in the online environment where attrition rates are higher than in the face-to-face setting (Allen & Seaman, 2015; Boston & Ice, 2011).


student on a laptop February 26

The Art & Science of Quality Course Announcements: How to Avoid the Trap of the Info Dump

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It’s the night before a major assignment is due and you sit down to post an announcement in your online course. You want to remind your students of the impending due date, and oh yes, there’s a great webinar offered by the career center coming up on Tuesday. That reminds you, there’s also that article about the history of Wikipedia that you want to share with them too. Come to think of it, now’s as good a time as any to discuss the lack of analysis you noticed in their discussion board posts last week. As you write about their discussions, you also decide to include one last link to a citation website you hope will help them improve in this area.




online group work January 29

Designing Effective Team Projects in Online Courses

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Participating in team projects offers students the chance to develop interpersonal communication skills (Figueira & Leal, 2013), build relationships with classmates, and increase the level of collective competencies as each group member brings something different to the group. However, in the online environment where the majority of the work occurs asynchronously, students may resist having to work with others (Smith et al., 2011) on graded assignments. Students often say that they do not like group work because they expect that they will have to contribute more than their teammates or that they will have difficulty scheduling times to meet with other group members. They also may be uneasy about being assigned an individual grade based on the work of the team.
After teaching fully online courses for the past five years, I offer seven best practices for teamwork in online courses:


student studying on laptop November 17, 2015

Wallflowers in the Online Classroom

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What does it mean to be a wallflower? Such a person might be thought of as shy and might sit apart from others at a party or social gathering, choosing to listen and observe rather than participate. And in the online classroom, a wallflower might be the person who reads course information and discussion boards regularly, but never posts. So how do instructors know if this online wallflower is really engaged in the course?




mouse click November 6, 2015

Do Online Students Cheat More on Tests?

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A lot of faculty worry that they do. Given the cheating epidemic in college courses, why wouldn’t students be even more inclined to cheat in an unmonitored exam situation? Add to that how tech-savvy most college students are. Many know their way around computers and software better than their professors. Several studies report that the belief that students cheat more on online tests is most strongly held by faculty who’ve never taught an online course. Those who have taught online are less likely to report discernible differences in cheating between online and face-to-face courses. But those are faculty perceptions, not hard, empirical evidence.


teaching online October 30, 2015

Promoting Learning: The Instructor’s Main Mission or a Secondary Duty?

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As instructors, promoting learning is, or at least should be, our primary task. As an online instructor, I must enforce deadlines, respond to requests for accommodations, post announcements, provide guidance and clarity, assess student performance, provide feedback, and post grades. Instructors have a variety of duties inside and outside the classroom to meet the standards required by the university, yet our primary mission should remain ensuring that students are gaining new knowledge.