Driving Learner Engagement in an Online Environment

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ETAP 623 Spring 2019 | Taylor Walsh


“The most significant influence on the evolution of virtual learning will not be the technical development of more powerful devices, but the professional development of wise designers, educators and learners.” (Dede, LaPointe, Gunawardena, 2003).

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Overview and Purpose

Welcome to this professional development workshop, Driving Learner Engagement in an Online Environment. This course is intended for instructors of online, asynchronous courses looking for engagement strategies to include in their online courses, instructional designers designing and developing content for online courses, or administrators of institutions looking to increase engagement and satisfaction in online course offerings. This course will focus upon the implementation of strategies to promote meaningful learning interactions, community building, and self-efficacy in an online learning environment. This course will allow participants to practice specific strategies surrounding design & organization, instructional effectiveness, and interactivity to engage students and promote sustained motivation. During each unit, students will construct knowledge by participating in discussions and completing simulated activities. Participants will work collaboratively to identify strategies specific to their online courses that will facilitate high learner engagement and satisfaction.

Needs Assessment

In an increasingly global and technology-driven society, our education system can no longer afford to rely solely upon the labor-intensive industrial era model of education that uses human resources inefficiently (Dede, 2011, p. 4). While the potential of online learning environments to transform the education system as we know it has not yet been fully realized, distance learning enrollments in higher education continue to grow. The Distance Education Enrollment Report 2017, produced by Digital Learning Compass, in partnership with OLC, Pearson and Tyton Partners, points to continued growth in distance education, even as overall higher education enrollments decline. For this reason, instructors of online learning need to be equipped with both the skills they require to deliver meaningful online learning experiences now, as well as prerequisite skills for the inevitable evolution of learning technology in the coming years.

Online learning and face-to-face education are very different and should be approached as such in the design and implementation phases. Due to the physical distance and asynchronous pacing of online learning, instructors must plan specific community-building interactions to drive learner engagement with the content and their peers. Online learning facilitators are sometimes, due to time and budget constraints, made to adapt face-to-face learning and instructional strategies to an online environment without the proper training on the key differences and research. This can set up instructors to face challenges in creating motivated, self-directed learners in an online environment and leave them ill-prepared to include available interactive web tools to further drive engagement.

Performance Objectives

At the end of this course, learners will be able to:

  • Learners will deliver impactful online learning experiences by adopting collaborative constructivist strategies for engagement.

Course Units

This mini-course includes the following units. Click the title of a unit to go to its page.

Unit 1: Community Development in an Online Learning Environment

Target Objectives: Participants will:

  • Define teaching presence and describe the role of the instructor in an online learning environment.
  • Create a repository of research surrounding which community development tactics that positively impact learning and provide a high level synthesis of the trends evident in that research.

Unit 2: Designing Instruction for Optimal Engagement

Target Objectives: Participants will:

  • Build a syllabus (either for an existing course or a hypothetical one) using the design principles proven to engage learners in online environments reflective of constructivist ideas.
  • Examine best design practices and explain how they differ from design practices for a face-to-face lesson.

Unit 3: Instructional Effectiveness in an Asynchronous Virtual Learning Environment

Target Objectives: Participants will:

  • Self-assess the quality of discussion contributions thus far and describe how you might facilitate discourse in your own course.
  • Discuss the importance of instructor activities outside of the discussion board and describe actionable steps you can take to keep learners engaged long-term.

Unit 4: Leveraging Interactivity to Promote Learner Engagement

Target Objectives: Participants will:

  • Create a list of research-based activities to promote learner engagement. Discuss choices with group and refine and improve selections based on feedback.
  • Create a job aid on how to use a web 2.0 tool that could be used in future teaching practice.
  • Have confidence to make commitment to use web 2.0 tools to enhance community building and foster positive learning environment.

Driving Learner Engagement in an Online Environment: Course Conclusions

Target Objectives: Participants will:

  • Note the key take-aways of this course.
  • Reflect on what they've learned and consider how they will incorporate these lessons into their teaching practice.

Extended Resources

NOTE: You will find citations for this course on the Driving Learner Engagement in an Online Environment References and Resources page.