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Online courses can be challenging for you because you have to adapt your teaching methods to engage students in virtual settings. Online students face the greatest challenge of staying motivated during a course.
How can you engage students in an online setting? These are some teaching strategies to help you reach your online students.
Social support
Online learning offers many benefits such as self-paced learning and the ability to view coursework according to the student’s schedule. However, it can also be lonely. You must be active in building a virtual support network for your online students. Ryan Watkins, Michael Corry, and E-Learning Companion, Student’s Guide to online Success, 4th Edition, state that “the social network for an online student must be built intentionally through interaction with other students” (Watkins 155).
Watkins and Corry suggest that students set both short- and long-term goals for college and their course. By setting up measurable ways for students to measure how close they are to achieving a goal and creating short-term goals throughout their course, college students can be helped to set goals. Peer feedback can be required as part of the coursework. This helps online students to build their social support networks and holds them accountable throughout the course.
Engaging online students in discussions via social media or on discussion boards is another way to build a social support network. Your online students will notice your active participation in these groups.
Create engaging course content
Online learning doesn’t have to be limited only to text-only course pages and assignments. To make students feel closer to you, use imagery, video, or audio elements. Include the following in your teaching strategies:
A video that introduces you and the course.
Videos of topics in your course, particularly those that are especially exciting or notable.
Real-time video interaction via social networking tools such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype
Real-time, web-based data. Selby Cull, Don Reed and Karin Kirk wrote “Student Motivation & Engagement in Online Courses” for the Carleton College Teaching Geoscience Online website. They noted tools such “USGS streamflow network”, NOAA offshore buoy measurements, drifter buoys and recent earthquakes.
These links will take you to articles about current events that are relevant to the course. They also keep the topic relevant to the real-world and the course.
Online students can be motivated by their instructors
Your online students’ motivation will also be affected by how you engage them. Online college students should be provided with a detailed syllabus and deadlines at the start of the course. This will help them to set goals and keep track of their progress throughout the term. You should also:
Answer emails, questions, or discussions promptly, ideally within 24hrs.
Give feedback quickly and with constructive, personal comments.
You can post a weekly message to your course webpage.
Reference: Watkins Ryan, Michael Corry. 2014. E-Learning Companion: Student’s Guide to Online Success, 4th edition. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.

By Delilah