One of the goals of teaching an online class should be to keep students engaged in the course. Getting student to interact with each other and feel like part of a community helps to increase retention. Students who feel alone are more likely to drop a course.
Often, teachers tend to set up all kinds of activities (like discussions, group projects, etc) to help students interact with each other. However, sometimes we forget that we have to be involved, as well, to keep students together. Our students will do what we do. So, what are some ways to improve our own involvement in our courses?
First, we should be active participants in any course discussions. I ask my students to participate at least 8 times during the week in a discussion. Essentially, they should log in and post a response to the prompt early in the week. Then they optimally should log in two-three more times during the week, posting responses to two-three peers each time. I try to hold myself to an even higher standard.
The first week of the course, I do an introductions forum. I do my best to personally respond to each of my students that first week. As the semester progresses, I log into the discussion board every single day, read every new response, and post responses to at least two-three of those posts each day. Often, I will find myself doing more than that. Just as I would in the classroom, I try to connect the discussion to what we are currently studying in the course–helping students to apply the discussion to their current assignment, for example.
I have found that students notice that I’m involved and actively participating in the discussion, and they really do appreciate it! Plus, students tend to do what I do. If I show that I’m actively engaged in the course, they tend to stay more engaged, as well.
Second, I try to post an announcement at least once a week. Even if the announcement simply says, “This is what we’re doing this week…” it lets students know that I’m there. It reminds them that they are in a course. And it encourages them to stay involved.
Finally, I answer e-mails and questions posted in my Questions for Instructor forum every day. My method is to log in once per day to check e-mail and questions. This way, students are sure to get an answer within 24 hours.
These are just a few basic strategies that I practice in my courses. What do you do to keep your students engaged?