25 ways to engage and motivate your students

Stephanie Payzant, Post Unversity

Building community in an online course can take a one-dimensional course, where students interact with each other based only on requirements, to an engaging multidimensional experience.  Students interact with each other to share a vast variety of ideas, opinions, and life lessons using the content. They utilize other students, and the instructor as a springboard to make the course come alive!  Here are some ideas that can help you reach that goal.
  1. Send a welcome email before the course starts introducing yourself and reminding students of resources they will need such as software and signing up for a library barcode; include the syllabus so they can start to orient themselves to the course. This serves as a reminder that they signed up for the course as well.
  2. Get advisors involved if any student emails bounce back or if students identify an issue that you need help with.
  3. Set up your instructor email on your phone to alert you with a special sound or vibration.
  4. Set up a Gmail account for instant messaging via Google Hangouts with students so you can address any critical problems quickly.
  5. Create (if necessary) and subscribe to an ungraded forum, “Ask the Instructor”, where students can post questions for everyone to benefit from the instructor’s answers.
  6. Track student access and introduction details in a spreadsheet so you know who is having trouble getting started. This will help you to focus feedback based on their program or personal situation throughout the course.
  7. Set up an introduction forum and include your own introduction answering the same questions as the students. Consider encouraging everyone to post either a picture or a video in their introduction post.
  8. Respond to every introduction with a welcome and a short comment, remarking on any students that have something in common.
  9. If the Introduction forum is graded, give them those points as soon as possible so they see 100% for that first grade.
  10. Send out an email midweek to those yet to log in or yet to complete any work to offer your help to get them started.
  11. Add a Twitter widget in an Announcement sharing your Twitter feed or the course Twitter hash tag. Make sure to post regularly to it sharing comments and resources related to the course.
  12. Using the Video Everywhere tool in the Blackboard text editor, include a video of yourself explaining a difficult concept.
  13. Record a screen recording demonstrating a difficult task using a screen capture tool such as Jing or Screen-Cast-O-Matic.
  14. Share current and engaging resources in an announcement to augment the unit resources, possibly asking them to comment on it later in the weekly discussion.
  15. Explain how to subscribe to their own thread so they are notified when someone replies to it.
  16. Remind students on Saturdays to make sure to check on their threads and respond to any questions posted.
  17. Ask questions, share experiences and resources, and note what others said in other threads in your discussion interaction with students.
  18. Bring the discussion back up to the forefront by creating a new thread summarizing the main ideas and asking questions. This will help to focus student interaction with each other on those key points.
  19. Privately prompt a student that is struggling in a discussion to post about a specific point that has yet to be covered; sometimes students pay closer attention to their peer’s posts than yours!
  20. If something is particularly challenging to students, consider asking them to find additional resources and share them with the class either via a discussion or Twitter (and they will show up in the feed).
  21. Set up study teams of two-three students in small groups to talk about any problems they are having with assignments and allow for informal peer reviews.
  22. Grade as soon as possible so students know you are interested in seeing what they submitted, providing targeted feedback using the student’s name in the text and ending with yours.
  23. Setting a daily routine to work in your course can keep you on track with your grading and student interactions.
  24. Check in on students who are struggling or falling behind. If needed, ask their advisor to check on them as well.
  25. Check in with all students mid-course and have them share their challenges and successes via a discussion or Twitter.
An engaged and committed instructor can bring out the most reticent or struggling student and help successful students challenge themselves thus building a community where students learn not only from the course content but from every member of the class! What are you going to do differently to add another dimension to your online course community?