Some great tips for engagement online. Please add your own!

Hello everyone! I just wanted to write a little post about some ideas for engagement, especially in online courses. As I mentioned, next week, we’ll also brainstorm about ideas for teaching asynchronously. 

Some general ideas for engagement are:

  • Try to get as much one-on-one contact with the students as you can (even if their screen is not on,) using office hours and conferences
  • If you are able, use small groups: either in breakout rooms on Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate, making sure that students have a task to complete and bring back to the larger group
  • Ask students to work in small groups on Google Docs or via email to create a sense of community.
  • Use slideshows in classes (synchronous or asynchronous. You can make these on google slides, Canva, slidesgo, or a number of other sites (slidesgo just has images that can be transferred to google slides or power point. You can embed links in these slideshows, and they’re great ways to 1. Engage all types of learners and increase attention and 2. Have a good record for those who could not attend class! HERE is a recent slideshow I made about paragraphing. Feel free to use it. I used Canva.
  • I especially like to use good ol’ pen and paper drawing in my classes. For example, my students don’t like to turn on their cameras, so I asked them to draw pictures of themselves and hold them up to the screen. I sometimes have them draw ideas from essays they are working on or essays we are reading as well.

Some more specific ideas (and technologies you may want to try.) Please note that all the technologies mentioned have a free component though most also have a paid component as well:

  • Ask your students to make intro videos, maybe using Flipgrid. They needn’t show their face. One thing that’s great about Flipgrid, besides that it’s free, is that they can comment on each other’s videos.  You can give them a few ideas, like:
    • MTV Cribs
    • Literature (or Science, or Gaming, etc) nerd intro
    • World’s Most Boring Intro.
    • Students can use this for other assignments as well, even reader response to essays (one another’s or texts for the course.)
  • A screencast-o-matic screenshot video of an essay or article for class. In other words, they can screencast a text they are reading and:
    • Point out a favorite passage and explain why
    • Point out a place they got confused and explain why
    • Give a lesson on vocabulary words in context
    • Give a summary of a paragraph or section
    • The possibilities are endless!
  • Using edpuzzle, you can add pauses to YouTube videos (TedTalks, etc) in which you ask students questions about what they’re watching. They must answer before watching further. This is also a good way to see who’s watched, but more importantly, to increase student engagement!
  • Padlet is a great app that allows students to interact on making maps, timelines or a “graffitti wall,” in which they can simply comment on an essay or subject—and see each other’s responses all in one place. Honestly, I’m just learning about this program, but it looks phenomenal! See also: for some ideas.
  • Slack is basically a texting program you can use with your students (using their student emails) but it can be a great way to increase class discussion. You can send brief reminders about upcoming deadlines or office hours and it is a nice, conversational forum for having class discussions in a lowkey way.

That’s about all I have for now, but I would love to hear from you all.  Do you have any great assignments or technologies that have worked well (or not so well) in your classes? Please add any tips or questions in the comments above! 

2 thoughts on “Some great tips for engagement online. Please add your own!

  1. Professor Lucas Kwong

    These are all excellent ideas. One question I had was concerning obtaining consent for the use of third party websites. On Edpuzzle, for example, it notes that FERPA requires consent from students if they’re over 18, and from parents if under. It does mention a legal exemption (the ‘school official exemption’): “…under which schools may share student PII with designated school officials with a legitimate educational interest. Third parties may be considered school officials if they are performing a service for which the school would otherwise use employees. Schools define who constitutes a school official with a legitimate educational interest in their annual notification of rights under FERPA.”

    Can anyone confirm whether this exemption applies? Otherwise, will we need to get written consent from the students to use third party websites? Thanks!

    1. Carrie Hall Post author

      Great question! I’m looking into it now and will hopefully have more of an answer for you soon. But for now: my understanding is that this FERPA policy only applies when students need to create accounts for a new program and provide personally verifiable information. Students don’t always have to join edPuzzle (but they might when doing quizzes– in this case, I’m not sure if they can do it with personally verifiable information. If this is so, I can check on the exemption you mention above. It varies from state to state. Many of the programs do not require students to create accounts so this would not apply.


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