Student Engagement Strategies for the Online Classroom

Cognitive engagement is important to student success in any learning environment. However, cognitive engagement takes on more significance in the online learning environment, where students learn in a physically isolated environment and often lack elements that typically engage students in the face-to-face classroom.

In a recent interview, Dr. B. Jean Mandernach, associate professor of psychology and research associate for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Park University, talked about some of the strategies she uses to engage online learners.

Q: What are the major barriers in promoting student engagement in the online learning environment?

Mandernach: Engaging students in a meaningful, relevant fashion is difficult regardless of whether a course is face to face or online. The challenge for online instructors lies in transferring and adapting teaching strategies that are effective in the face-to-face classroom to be relevant for fostering student engagement in the online classroom. In essence, the greatest barriers are perceived limitations in what instructors can do in the faceless, physically isolated environment of online learning.
Q: What are the characteristics of an online course that promotes cognitive engagement?

Mandernach: An online course that promotes optimal student cognitive engagement has three key characteristics, it:

  1. integrates active learning environments with authentic learning tasks,
  2. fosters a personal connection between members of the class (teacher-student as well as student-student), and
  3. facilitates the process of learning in an online environment.

Do you have a tip for engaging online students? Share it now in the comments box.