4 Teaching Hacks for Engaging Online Instruction + eBook

Digital/Mobile, Online Learning, Student Engagement, Teaching Hacks
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Whether you’re a seasoned online instructor or beginning a remote course for the first time, you may have some questions about getting the most out of online learning for you and your students. With an estimated 97% of college students switching to online learning, mastering your course has never been more important (no pressure, right?).

To help, we’ve collected some of the top tips seasoned online instructors have shared to help you engage students, boost learning outcomes and bolster your digital confidence. Take a look!

1. Offer Different Assignment Types

When it comes to engaging students, Professor Sherri Singer shared some of her tips:

Students appreciate creative assignments that force them to analyze the course content and apply the concepts in different formats or across disciplines. Asking students to communicate their responses in various ways or to craft unique assignments engages them on different levels. Try providing scaffolded assignments that encourage participation or ask students to submit paper proposals, rough drafts and final copies to allow for additional communication and opportunities to engage.”

2. Make Course Content Relatable to Students’ Real-life Experiences

As an instructor, you’ve surely heard the classic, “when will I ever use this?” from your students. While it may seem like a timeworn retort, research has shown that connecting course content to your students’ lives—and emphasizing the relevance of your lessons—helps boost student engagement, motivation and self-discipline. With this in mind, Professor Sandy Keeter has this to share:

Show the relevance of the subject matter and make it fun and meaningful! My excitement for what I teach is obvious, and my students can see it and feel it. I believe in what I teach.”

3. Provide a “Map” for Students

With students and instructors forced to quickly adapt to online learning, there can be a number of growing pains when a new semester begins. With this in mind, professor Marie Guest suggests first focusing on helping students master the learning technology and course designs they’ll be using in your class:

“I start each semester with a carefully designed orientation to my course. Students must complete each step in the orientation to move forward to the course content. Starting with a tour of our learning management system—including course announcements, finding and opening a posted file, completing an attendance/syllabi quiz, posting in an introductory discussion board, registering for their textbook/online platform and sending an email to establish the teacher-student lines of communication—students prove they are ready to learn the course material. After completing this orientation, I rarely get a question from a student about how to complete any task, so I can then focus on teaching content.”

4. Focus on the Intentional Design of the Course

When it comes to successfully engaging students and guiding them toward academic success in an online setting, design and planning are everything. From technology to pedagogy, there are plenty of intricacies to account for. For professor Shawn Orr, she suggests the following to make course design easy and effective:

When I design courses, I always begin with the learning outcomes for the course, and then the modules and work backwards. Creating a course map is especially helpful so I ensure that each activity, lecture, project, assessment, discussion post, guest speaker, presentation and gaming exercise has a clear purpose, linked back to an objective of the course.”

Want to Learn Even More About Mastering Online Courses?

Check out our recent ebook, The Cengage Guide to Teaching Online. In it, we explore the technological and pedagogical aspects of online learning—and the tips and tricks to master them.