How to cultivate student collaboration and engagement in online learning

If you are among the thousands of teacher now being challenged to transition courses urgently to an online format, you are, no doubt, discovering that designing intentional and effective online pedagogies is no small feat.

Teaching online requires an intentional, thoughtful approach to instructional design, especially at a time when students are being asked to transition at an unprecedented pace in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

It’s easy to be discouraged by these abrupt changes and by the reality that online success rates often still lag behind those of face-to-face classes. A growing body of evidence indicates that the biggest barrier to achieving equivalent success rates in online learning has been tackling the challenge of cultivating the sort of collaboration, engagement and discussion that are often the hallmark of great teaching and learning environments.

Set simple and consistent expectations about students’ responsibilities: Make your life — and your students’ lives — easier with simple, clear, consistent requirements for engaging in your online discussion board of choice. Every additional criterion, deadline difference and exception adds complexity and cognitive load for students to remember, so consider the cost versus the benefit of adding more complex requirements. A recurring deadline (e.g., Sundays at 10 p.m.) with clear requirements (“Post one question per deadline period and two responses”) allows students to focus on making their posts and building a habit of inquiry — rather than on making sure they are “getting their points.”

Stay focused : Managing online discussion can feel like one more item on an ever-growing to-do list, and in a time of crisis like this one, the burden is even higher. Many teacher feel they need to read every discussion post for accuracy, grammar and compliance , but with online discussion, the most important thing is to see students engaging meaningfully and actively. Interestingly, teacher who are highly involved in moderating posts often see reduced student autonomy and engagement within the discussion. By fighting the urge to intervene in every incorrect answer or rogue punctuation mark in the discussion board, you can stay focused on engaging with students meaningfully, while supporting student autonomy, leading to better student motivation and course performance

Pick the right tool : When implementing online discussion, make sure to accompany the work of encouraging motivation, autonomy and inquiry with a medium that helps facilitate those goals.

Thankyou , Stay Safe!

Also published on Medium.

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