Published: Feb. 6, 2020

Female adult student reacting positively to online contentDoris Cheung, Learning Experience Designer and our colleague within the Academic Technology Design Team (ATDT), recently completed a four-month consultation to help develop hybrid courses for the Leeds School of Business. The collaboration with instructors Tracy Jennings, Jay Waddell, and Steve Lawrence provided insights into the importance of student engagement in online learning environments. The team identified four approaches that, when implemented effectively, can have huge payoffs for instructors and students:

  • Create a welcoming online environment and sense of community
  • Set clear expectations
  • Provide meaningful and timely feedback
  • Encourage reflection and solicit feedback.

The ATDT has published a list of 12 specific strategies instructors can apply to implement these approaches. Download a PDF or expand the sections below for details.

  • Include a brief biography and image in your syllabus and/or introductory video, so students can get to know you better. This can decrease anxiety they may have if they are new to learning online.
  • Encourage students to introduce themselves and help them get to know each other and learn a new technology with little risk.
  • Get to know students individually (and encourage the same between students) to communicate respect and help them feel recognized. This can also increase students’ feelings of accountability to you and their peers.
  • Invite students to ask clarifying questions and to engage in dialogue with each other.
  • Provide students with different avenues for communication and engagement with the instructor and with each other. 

  • Include in your syllabus preferences for how students contact you and expected turnaround time for your response.
  • Clearly define at the start of your course expectations for students' participation in the online environment.
  • Articulate what you’re looking for in students’ work (i.e., what would be considered a “A”-level work, “B”, “C”, etc.). Grading assignments that better match what you envisioned will be more enjoyable for you too! 

  • Give students individual feedback to assess performance and reinforce desired behaviors. Also provide suggestions on what they could do better to succeed.
  • Specific feedback demonstrates that you are looking at each and every student’s work. Students will likely be more invested to do well.
  • Frequent feedback gives students a sense of how they’re doing and a chance to improve before the next graded assignment. 

  • Guided reflection is a great way to find out what students are getting out of the course. Midway through the term, ask what’s going well and what could be better, in order to identify minor adjustments that can improve students’ learning. 

To learn more about the project, including key recommendations for instructors when creating an online or hybrid course, read the full report on the ATDT website.

Photo: pch.vector via Freepik