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#LTTO Module 7- Motivating and Engaging Students

Activities, assessment and resources are important but being able to facilitate and manage technologically inclusive learning- that’s the element that really brings it all together and it requires a set of really specific skills.

This is module seven of a Learning To Teach Online MOOC with Coursera, (all content featured has been curated by the University of South Wales for Coursera) you can read about module 1 here and about module 2 here, and about module 3 here and about module 4 here and about module 5 here and about module 6 here.

Module Learning Outcomes

By engaging with the content, and completing the activities and related discussion in this module, you should be able to:

  1. Identify strategies for engaging and motivating students in online learning scenario
  2. Describe ideas for managing your own time more effectively when teaching using online technologies
  3. Assess how the appropriateness of the online activity and related technology used can impact student motivation

Overview Video

This module explores how engaging and motivating students in online environments can be very different to how you might do this in face-to-face environments.

This module is important to everyone wanting their students ton get the most out of their online learning.

Just because out learners are working online and interacting with technology, does not mean that we (our presence and guidance) are not important. In fact, we’re in many ways even more important than we are in other learning situations.

Activities, assessment and resources are important but being able to facilitate and manage technologically inclusive learning- that’s the element that really brings it all together and it requires a set of really specific skills.

Setting a Learning Goal


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For this module (chosen from a list):

Grasp the concepts in order to use the ideas in my course(s)

For the whole MOOC (chosen from a list):

I want to gain knowledge about blended/online learning and use this to re-design my course.

Key Concepts Videos


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Motivating and Engaging Students (Video 1)

Student engagement in online learning is critical for its success

The strong motivation for students to take part in online learning comes from a range of inter-related aspects:

  • Curriculum design
  • Structure of activities
  • Relevance of selected technology
  • Effective time management

Your own level of engagement is a factor- why would the learners be engaged if you’re not?

Lead by example: use the technologies the way you’d like your learners to use them- model behaviour

They do notice when you’re absent from the online space and this can have a de-motivating effect

It’s important to develop an understanding of how you can build initial engagement as well as maintain it throughout

Above all, ensure that any online activity you’re asking them to engage with is relevant, meaningful and an integral part of their learning process. Students are busy people too- if the task doesn’t directly support an assessment task or they’re unable to see the relevance then they just won’t do it.


  • Establish clear ground rules for engagement
  • Let students know what they can expect from you- when will you be there and how often?
  • Explain from the start WHY you’re using online technologies- if they can’t see the benefits over other ways of engaging then they won’t participate
  • Be present in online discussions but don’t dominate- act more like a guide- allowing students the space to learn from one another
  • Acknowledge their contributions in the online space though- it shows them you’re interested in their learning
  • Timely feedback is essential as this also helps learners to see the purpose of their engagement online
  • Provide adequate levels of technical support and resources- answering questions fully etc- this helps learners overcome the issue directly therefore they’re far less likely to disengage because of it
  • Manage non-contributing students promptly- remind them of your expectations privately rather than naming and shaming

Learning online has the potential to be an isolating experience if it’s not prepared and facilitated correctly BUT the development of an online learning community can help the experience more rewarding and inclusive. They can share their knowledge, experience interactive learning and also socialise- which can build the trust and rapport necessary for collaboration.

Engaging and Motivating Students (Video 2)

Education can be very lonely- especially if they receive a whole load of materials to wade through.

We need to be engaging in ways they enjoy not in ways we’re used to.

If you want to be successful at it, the students need to sense your presence there- they’ll know we’re engaged and interested. If you can do this successfully in the first two weeks, you establish the benchmark and this sets a good foundation.

You’re there to help students along but not be the one they become reliant upon.

Some students are shy to speak up in face-to-face interactions but are far less scared in an online environment to have a voice. By drawing them out, using these social networks, we don’t just create an online environment but a community.

Give them enough rope to engage when they want to but as a teacher, we’re still responsible for their learning. We need to contact them immediately so that the learners know the expectation is to actively engage.

When students receive responses to their comments, they feel included.

Tying the online learning to an assessment is a useful way of giving the learning value. Having participation marks helps them to engage more.

Establish ground rules for online dialogue to they can appreciate what the conventions are.

Set a standard/really specific activity for completion- post once for each topic. Then share criteria for what a pass level of participation would look like, a merit level, a distinction level etc.

By the end, the hope is that your learners feel like they have made friends with those they’re learning with, despite perhaps not even meeting at all.

Online teamwork and collaboration (Video 3)

Developing effective teamwork and collaboration are crucial skills but students can find it challenging and difficult.

Students enter university on a very competitive process so asking them to work together with their competitors is highly challenging.

It is an authentic approach to learning as all students can be sure to have to work collaboratively in the workplace.

Design appropriate tasks, build assessment strategies that show them the rewards and explain why teamwork is important. Translate this into what they’ll be having to do in real-life, doing this kind of an activity.

Tine of voice, facial expressions and body language are dramatically diminished in an online environment and this presents some communication difficulties.

By mentoring them and responding to their queries, you can promote collaboration all the time.

Sort groups based on those who were more likely to collaborate with one another- think about their backgrounds, contexts and motivations in considering this.

How are you going to assess group work so that its fair? So that each person’s contributions are identified- Google can be great for this as it leaves a trace of who has contributed what.

A large % of a mark is given to a group and then a mark for individuals- enough of a mark that can be the difference between a pass and a merit for instance so that individual contributions are recognised.

This is not an optional and it’s not an academic’s way of getting out of marking- it’s how the world works: learning to become a team member but still producing good work.

Conducting effective online discussions (Video 4)

Due to group dynamics, some students will dominate whilst others may not participate at all/much

Online can provide them chance to contribute- but in their own time- editing their response, checking words in a dictionary etc.

There’s greater opportunity for communication- sharing ideas and contesting ideas alike.

Often, teachers spend far too much time in class spending time 1-1 answering learner’ questions- online- when 1 questions is asked by a student, others can see the responses too.

Everyone has an equal contribution and all can participate in an active way at the same time- rather than listening to an interaction between two people.

Questions, concerns and delving deeper into learning content is enabled in the slow, more open and flexible online environment.

Attendance isn’t measured in the same way- you have to post for us to know you’re online!

As soon as a couple of students engage, other students are more likely to participate.

Set guidelines that students have to post but also respond to other people as then everyone is encouraged to take part.

Spend time congratulating students who have participated and the extra learning that has taken place as a result of their discussions- then reminding of non-participants of the deadline is a useful thing to do.

At the beginning, you might provide reasonably detailed criteria about what their posts should be- word counts, suggestions around content etc.

If there’s something still alive online after a class at the start of the week, this can be really rewarding- the learning is being extended beyond the classroom.

Managing your time when teaching online (Video 5)

You can save time online by effective use of the technology.

It CAN save time- both parties can log on when they’re at their most productive.

Some lecturers suggested it wasn’t time saving- for the teacher OR the student- does it matter?

It gives you more control and flexibility over your time.

It can buy you more time to think- before responding to learners’ questions or work.

It’s different time rather than more or less time.

You can mark wherever you want

It’s not a block per week- it’s being there- giving small and regular feedback, which is far more ever-present and satisfying for students

The biggest pitfall is that you always have your classroom with  you  and you can easily go in to check what’s happening and who’s doing what

Responding to and interacting with students is not sustainable for 24 hours a day

Negotiate assessment deadlines with students- to define when their best times for working are- uploading at 4am is possible if they need it!

Using Wikis for Student Collaboration (Video 6)

A wiki is a collaborative webpage with access for students to edit and design.

Upto 600 students online and 100 on campus.

Online students need effective facilitation of group work, just as much as face-to-face learners.

Comments are added to the page in terms of the version and what changes need to be made, as well as comments on what’s working well.

Once they have made edits then they can click save for their classmates to see.

As an assessor, she gets access to who made it and at what time- she can see who’s done the work and who the specific contributions came from.


Students didn’t have to spend long learning how to use the technology

The feedback they gave was that the Wiki was of far better quality than they would have been able to manage as an individual

The teaching team were excited to use it, as the comments from students were so positive.

They could easily see the parts each student was playing.


We didn’t know what would work and we hadn’t tried off-campus group work before.

We consulted the literature.

We worked with colleagues when we were first assessing the wikis- as a team, we could work with the rubric together.

Effort and collaboration were the two key factors we were rewarding- 15 marks just for this part.

15- collaboration with all members

8-15- some level of collaboration

We recorded a technical demonstration to support these aspects fully.

The wiki can be seductive from a technical point of view- engaging and dazzling but perhaps not academically sound. They had to help the learners understand that the academic content was important. If they couldn’t work out how to embed a video then it didn’t matter, a link to a video would be perfectly ok.

The learners were skeptical about the group work going well off-campus but it did.

Increasing student engagement using podcasts (Video 7)

Podcast: Audio, video/PDF file that can be downloaded for playback.

University of Leicester Lecturer

55 P/T distance learning students on MA programmes.

The podcasts were designed to improve engagement. The content isn’t new but we wanted a new method of delivery- especially for our students who are especially time poor.

Podcasts can be downloaded if they wish.

Some are monologues. Some are Q&A sessions. Assignment guidance around requirements.


We’re getting universally good feedback from the students.

The learners are feeling less isolated

They can understand the key aspects of a topic

It’s an efficient technology from the teacher’s point of view- reduces time

Planning and Making Podcasts:

  • Initial getting to grips with technology takes time
  • Making the podcast requires a plan- break down even a 5 min podcast into smaller sections with beginnings, middles and ends to chunk it for listeners.
  • Keep them short and with a structure and purpose
  • Ensure your voice is clear and content interesting
  • Headset with a mic, a PC or laptop and Audacity

It allows us to add emphasis, feeling and emotions to the material we present.

A flipped learning strategy for learning languages (Video 8)

Year 11 and Year 12 IB Course for learning Italian

Flipped classroom model

Students go through the content online at home in their own time and in class- they work on skills based activities

The main tool is WordPress- where she hosts her course.


Rather than planning lessons, I planned the entire course early on- I divided the programme into units and sub-units and then it was added to the online platform

Google Docs- collaborative vocabulary lists are required

Videos on YouTube and lots of areas of her topics

Sometimes EduCreations is used to create videos- or LifeScribe Pen and Screen Flow.

Her model of blended learning is content at home and skills in the classroom.

Learn vocab, watch video on grammar and language, rote learning tasks with answers provided- they don’t require a teacher to be there.

Quick quiz in class to assess learning that has taken place outside of class.

Videos- she tries as much as she can to include her face so that the students don’t feel as though the teacher’s not abandoned them.

Every year, she sits with her students and asks for their feedback.

Wen the course first began, initially, the response was quite negative and they asked her what she would be doing if she wasn’t teaching them.

She recognised that a cultural shift needed to occur.

Give it a go! It looks a lot harder than it actually is and there are so many benefits to it- her students’ results have improved significantly.

Fostering student engagement with Stile (Video 9)

The perfect iPad app.

How do we enable the best pedagogy for our students?

One of the core technologies is ‘stile’. It’s not an LMS, it’s more a content creation and delivery system. It allows teachers to create lessons that can be pushed to students on the iPad.

Content from YouTube can be included, he uses SmoothDraw to create all of his videos.

Multiple Choice Questions can be included and it’s a really simple model.

Stile is the wrapper, YouTube is how the lesson is delivered and the assessment results are recorded on the computer.


The killer app for students is their teacher- it’s what we do and how we do it that matters. How can the iPad enable you to spend more time with your learners?

You still need to develop that teacher-student relationship.

How much technical skill do we need? The bare minimum. If you have the mindset that you’ll work with your students and you’ll learn from them as much as they learn from you then that’s the answer. If your school’s supportive then that’s even better.

A pre-test/initial assessment is important for individualising the learning.

Think about what technologies are going to fit and how it will work with your learners. When you first start, just jump in, but after a while, you’ll understand that for a particular lesson, you’ll know which technology to use.

The students’ response to technology is evolving. The students expect it now.

In the past, if a student wanted feedback from their tutor then it was bound to time and space. This is no longer the case.

The supporting PDF for this module



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Activity 7.1- Self-assessment

Why do you think that your students are not as engaged as they could be? (tick all that apply)

  • The subject matter is not interesting
  • The curriculum is badly designed
  • I think that I could improve my teaching

Any topic can be boring if presented in an uninspiring way. Think about the way you are delivering content and the types of learning activities you are asking students to do. Even the most exciting subject can be disengaging if elements of a curriculum are not constructively aligned, relevant, and interesting.

If you are not happy with the way the curriculum is designed, chances are your students won’t be either. Think about what aspects don’t work and redesign them.

We can always improve our teaching practice no matter how experienced we are (that’s why you’re doing this course right?). Being open to feedback and critique of your teaching can vastly improve your skills which will in turn improve the student learning experience.

If or when you are teaching a class with an online component, how prepared are you to do the following? (tick all that apply) The following are the options I wanted to work more on:

  • Encourage students to share their own knowledge and experiences, and provide support to each other
  • Give regular reminders to students about assessments, deadlines and expectations
  • Help students understand the importance of time management
  • Regularly challenge students in their thinking and judgments
  • Encourage students to critique each other’s work

Scenario: You are a casual teacher in charge of a fully online class with students enrolled from all over the world. Because of the time zone differences, students are online participating in the class around the clock. They are constantly asking questions of you and demanding feedback about their ideas, and you find yourself spending more and more time online as the class goes on – many more hours than you are being paid for. You enjoy interacting with your students and would like to teach the class again the following semester, but you are getting exhausted!

How do you think you could change this situation next time you teach the class, so that you are not spending too much time online? (tick all that apply)

  • I could set boundaries around the use of my time by clearly explaining to my students at the start of the class how often and how long I will be online each week
  • I could help the students rely more on each other for assistance and support

Scenario: A teacher in a blended classroom gives students an activity to individually create a short (3-4 minute) digital story using a simple online technology. The teacher demonstrates in the classroom how to create digital stories and uploads the relevant reading material and other resources with step-by-step guides to create the digital story. He allocates four weeks for the completion of the task.
In his institution’s LMS, he sets up a discussion forum and asks students to upload the URL of their digital story by the end of week four and shows them how to do this. The teacher believes that the students will be really engaged when they create this digital story, but to his surprise, only a few students upload the URL of their digital story on the discussion forum. Others tell him that they did not find the activity interesting.

What could be the reasons for students’ disengagement with the task? (tick all that apply)

  • The students were not given the opportunity to share their ideas with each other and discuss any difficulties they were facing with using the web 2.0 tool
  • For a short 3-4 minutes resource four weeks is a long time. The teacher allocated too much time for the activity and students lost motivation

Which of the following could be done to maximise student engagement in the task? (tick all that apply)

The activity could be changed into an assessment task

  • Rather than asking students to only create a 3-4 minute digital story, students can be asked to provide peer feedback on one another’s digital stories. The peer feedback component could be part of an assessment mark
  • The discussion forum that the teacher had created could be utilized more wisely by requiring students to discuss their ideas, challenges or the experiences they had when creating their digital story, rather than just uploading the URL

Anderson, T. (2003). Getting the Mix Right Again: An Updated and Theoretical Rationale for Interaction. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 4(2).
Indicators of engagement
T4LT – Online Student Engagement Tips and Strategies

Activity 7.2- Knowledge

If you are asking students to use online technologies to enhance your face-to-face class, what are some ways that you could improve their level of engagement in the online learning activities? (tick all that apply)

  • Provide students with a participation rubric that describes different standards of expected participation in the range of face-to-face and online activities in the class
  • Tell the students why you want them to use online technologies, and how doing so will help them achieve the learning outcomes
  • Be present in the online environment so that students realise that their efforts are of value
  • Provide adequate levels of technical support in case students have any problems

Scenario: A teacher in a design college has managed to have a professional designer agree to discuss an ethical issue related to the mass manufacturing of products in developing nations with 15 of his students. The guest is in a different country and only has 20 minutes to spare, so the teacher sets up a live chat room in his online classroom where everyone can engage in a synchronous discussion.

What do you think some of the possible disadvantages of this situation may be? (tick all that apply)

  • Discussions can become shallow, fragmented and harder to follow if many different topics are raised
  • The teacher needs to work hard in their moderation of the discussion to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute, given that the discussion takes place in a limited amount of time

What are some of the benefits of using an asynchronous online environment to facilitate student group work?(tick all that apply)

  • Since group discussions and contributions can take place asynchronously, students are able to contribute at a time and place that is convenient to them
  • The teacher is more easily able to observe how each student contributes to the collaborative process at all stages of an activity or assessment

Scenario: You have asked your students to use the class Learning Management System (LMS) to work on a group project in their allocated groups. Students in the first phase of the assignment, individually undertake research on the topic and upload their findings to the LMS wiki. In the second part of the assignment, students must work together in the LMS wiki to critically analyse each other’s individual research submissions, and then collectively write an illustrated report that synthesises the information. You have asked the students to use the wiki, because it is an appropriate tool to facilitate the collaborative process. It also enables you to monitor the levels of each student’s contribution within the group. At the beginning of the second part of the task, one student in a group agrees to work on a component assigned to him but later on disappears without completing his task. Despite the group trying many times to contact the student, he did not respond, causing his group to become increasingly worried and frustrated as the deadline moved closer. Finally the group decided to complete the assignment without the missing student, but he appeared one week before the deadline and tried to start making small contributions. The group resented his late appearance, and the previously missing student was very upset when his group refused to let him participate. The situation resulted in the student making a formal complaint to the university claiming he was being bullied by the group.

How could you have prevented this situation from occurring? (tick all that apply)

  • By offering students guidance about how to work and communicate effectively in groups before the assignment began, clearly stating penalties for non-contribution
  • By visiting the group wiki regularly, checking the progress and offering feedback so that you had an online presence
  • By making contact with the missing student as early as possible, offering support if he was having problems, but also reminding him that he needed to communicate with the group and participate regularly as a requirement of the course
  • By encouraging groups to develop an agreed timeline, with development deadlines and an agreement specifying a plan of action in case someone does not contribute

Improving Student Engagement by Integrating Adaptive and Collaborative Learning Technologies
SAMPLE Discussion Participation Rubric
Using Rubrics to Grade Online Discussions
More Essential and Helpful Resources for Online Instructors
Increase Online Student Engagement and Motivation Using TEC-VARIETY
Engagement in Online Collaborative Learning: A Case Study Using a Web 2.0 Tool
Learning from Teachers’ Conceptions of Technology Integration: What Do Blogs, Instant Messages, and 3D
Chat Rooms Have to Do with It?

Activity 7.3- Strategy

Q. Have you learned anything in this module that you think will be beneficial for yourself and for your students’ level of interest and engagement in online learning activities? How will you try to integrate these ideas into your own teaching?

A. There are some excellent tips for engagement that will be vital as I move forwards with engaging my A Level learners in their online learning.

Regular monitoring will be essential, and I will include (in my tracker) space for me to record their submissions and contributions.

I will ensure that I have a consistent presence in the online learning space.

I will ensure that all tasks have a very clear ‘why’ attached to them.

Q. Think about an online activity that you have, or might want to run with your students. Using some of the ideas drawn from modules and assignments in this course, how would you define your expectations of the students completing this activity? What would be considered a successful online engagement from your perspective?

A. I have created an activity, using the learning from this MOOC here:
Successful engagement in this project will be completing each of the stages successfully and to a high standard but, perhaps more importantly it will lead to full engagement on the larger online projects that will take place this year. I will complete a student feedback form at the end of the project and although I expect it to include some learning points, I hope that their feedback will be positive on the whole. 

Q. With this same activity in mind, describe what your students should expect from you in terms of your own online engagement. Will you interact with the students online? How often will you be present? What can they expect from you once you are there?

A. I have described my level of engagement in the activity as follows:

If you have any questions about this project at all, I will be available via Google+ or via email ( Monday to Friday. You will get a response to your question within 48 hours. If you want a quicker response then why not post on the Google+ community? One of your peers may be able to answer you just as successfully but more quickly.

If you would like any further support with this project then please make time to see me just before or just after any of your upcoming lessons.

Q. What are some suggestions both for yourself and for your students in terms of time management related to the above activity? How much time spent is too much? How much is too little? How often and for how long should students be online?

A. The guidance on the project site is as follows:
The recommendation is that you should spend no more than 2 hours per week at home on this activity (although no less than 1 hour per week). This is so that you have time to read C&K texts and participate in other work to make up your 5 hours of study outside of class each week for this subject.

Discussion Forums


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Coming to these modules late, I felt that the forums were filled with questions being answered by multiple participants and I felt there wasn’t much that I could add to the discussions. I did pick up this link related to time management that is filled with useful resources.

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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Aligning technology with the world of work. Jisc, 2015

In my role as Learning and Development Manager at Reading College, I contributed to a Jisc case study on education technologies and professional development for the publication, Technology for employability: FE and skills case studies, 2015.