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Student Engagement

Student Engagement

Engagement can mean many things related to students and learning. While emotional engagement focuses on relationships and social presence, cognitive engagement and behavioral engagement have to do with students’ investment in learning and the Rigor and Relevance components of the 3-R (Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships) educational framework.

According to researchers Bundick, et al. (2014), content that’s relevant to learners’ lives, their future goals, and to their identities resonates with students. Further,students appreciate opportunities to choose how to complete assignments and value the chance to exercise some control over their own learning (Lake, 2017). As a result of this personalization, learners are often able to construct their own understanding based upon their previous experiences, and instructors can use feedback to increase their visibility and to boost student engagement (Martin & Bollinger, 2018).

Develop positive learner experiences and retain students with engaging material and activities. Read on for ideas of how to increase engagement in your courses.

Research and practical articles

  • Bundick, M. J., Quaglia, R. J., Corso, M. J., & Haywood, D. E. (2014). Promoting student engagement in the classroom. Teaching College Record, 116(4).
  • Deschaine, M. E., & Whale, D. E. (2017). Increasing student engagement in online educational leadership courses. Journal of Educators Online, 14(1)
  • Lake, B. (2017). Engage your students with the 6 C's of motivation. Retrieved from
  • Martin, F., & Bolliger, D. U. (2018). Engagement matters: Student perceptions on the importance of engagement strategies in the online learning environment.Online Learning Journal, 22(1), 205-222. doi:10.24059/olj.v22i1.1092

Using Chunking to Develop Content for an Online Course

Text = how to chunk content

Credit: © Penn State is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

The concept of chunking is the act of breaking course content into small, meaningful units of information that can be digested and navigated easily. The information in each chunk should be related, logical, meaningful, and organized sequentially (Shank, 2018). Research tells us that there are several reasons to chunk content when writing instructional text, including:

Using Frameworks to Develop Content for a Course 

many lines coming together into 3 main categories

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Creating high-quality, pedagogically sound content is challenging whether a course is taught in-person, online, or using a hybrid method. In course development, a framework refers to a structured and organized approach used to design, plan, and develop course content. Frameworks also provide learning designers and faculty with a blueprint for creating a coherent and effective learning experience for students (Reigeluth, C. M., & Carr-Chellman, A. A., 2009).

Feedback Loops and Formative Assessment: Gathering Feedback from Students about the Effectiveness of Your Course

Feedback = idea, response, opinion, survey, comment, rating, result, advice

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Don’t wait for formal evaluations to find out what your students are thinking and how they feel. A recent study by Jonas Flodén (2017) notes that “Student feedback pushes teaching choices … toward more student-teacher interaction” (Discussion section, para. 3). Findings like this illustrate the demand for more connection.

Supporting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging 


Credit: Wildflowers from Pixabay is licensed under CC0.

Creating an inclusive teaching environment takes effort and dedication. Truly inclusive instructors do more than incorporate a friendly tone; they take responsibility for creating a welcoming environment, develop courses that are inclusive, and “change their teaching based on evidence about practices that support and challenge all students to thrive” (Addy, et al., 2021).

Using Constructivism to Help Students Build New Knowledge

cartoon brain with construction workers standing on it as though they are about to begin a building project

 Credit: © Amy Waters / Adobe Stock

Constructivist theories assert that to develop understanding and build new knowledge, learners must be actively engaged in seeking knowledge and information, not passively taking it in (Bada, 2018). As learners encounter the world around them, they build knowledge and integrate it into their existing personal knowledge base, also known as a schema.

Using Student-to-Student Interactions to Boost Engagement

Engaging students in class discussions and activities is always a challenging endeavor for instructors because there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work to draw in everyone. Students will have varying degrees of interest in the topic, and not everyone will be able to find the same degree of relevance in the concepts presented.

Using Interactive Videos to Encourage Active Learning

Screenshot of an interactive video

Credit: Mark Wherley © Penn State is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 

Interactive videos are an excellent choice for providing an active learning experience for students. Instead of a video that positions the learner as a passive listener, interactive videos engage the viewer and demand certain forms of interaction. In fact, students have reported that interactive videos can be fun and allow them to learn the content better compared to videos without any forms of interaction (Kim, Glassman, Monroy-Hernandez, & Morris, 2015; Neo, Neo, & Yap, 2008).

Employing Metacognition (Thinking about Your Own Learning) as a Learning Tool

cartoon. Man standing in a head filled with thousands of documents

Credit: HikingArtist is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Metacognition (thinking about your own learning) is a self-regulated behavior that students can use to gain control over their own learning. Self-regulated behaviors, like managing time effectively or asking for help, begin with monitoring, which helps us reflect upon or evaluate the information we’re trying to learn (I’m getting the answers wrong. Am I making simple mistakes, or don’t I understand the concept?).

Using Rubrics to Evaluate Student Work and Build Faculty Presence

Example of Rubric Thumbnail

Credit: © Penn State is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Rubrics frequently supplement forms of assessment and are used to evaluate student work and learning. They can be used for projects, presentations, discussions, and writing assignments. Learners can view the criteria on which they are being assessed and can work towards meeting the stated expectations. For instance, it is common to include a rubric for online discussion forums so that learners have a clear idea of the criteria that will be used for grading (i.e.