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Interactivity, communication and engagement in online courses

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Studying at university can be quite different from many students’ expectations if all teaching is digital. Being a new student in a solely digital learning environment can make it challenging to get to know other students and lecturers, to be part of a social context and to feel a sense of belonging to Lund University, which comes more naturally on campus.

There is not a world of difference in terms of what we need to do, says Lars Harrysson (senior lecturer at the School of Social Work), but the classrooms look a bit different. We normally have many conversations with our students on campus, which is something we may take for granted. As a lecturer on a online course you need to be proactive, you need to talk more with your students in perhaps new ways in order for the students to feel seen, especially at the beginning of a course.   

Engage your students

Here are examples of how you can engage your students – especially at the beginning of a course:   

Let your students get to know you:   

  • Create a page with a friendly presentation of yourself and your team, and include photos and brief descriptions of your backgrounds and roles on the course. 

Get to know your students  

  • Encourage students to include profile pictures in Canvas and have their camera switched on in Zoom.
  • Start a discussion where the students can introduce themselves to each other. Feel free to make a first presentation that sets the tone.
  • Having a group conversation in Zoom on an interesting topic, conducting a dialogue without any specific assignment, increases your knowledge of your students and their feelings of being seen. You can, for example, check in with them during an assignment and see how things are going. 

Let your students get to know the course

  • Create a welcome announcement that clarifies what the students need to do to get started and how to find what they need in your course.
  • Create a welcome video where you introduce the subject and what will happen during the first few weeks. This can easily be done in Studio or get the help you need through a video studio.
  • Create a discussion that is open to all types of questions. This needs to be monitored frequently, especially at the beginning of the course.   

DO NOT BOMBARD THE STUDENTS WITH INSTRUCTIONS! 

Let students discover and get to know their learning environment   

  • The course is taught wherever it is taught, even when the environment is not what we intended. Work on the environment and its factors for contributing to a positive learning environment for everyone in it.
  • Clarify to the students where they can find help on how to navigate the learning environment.   

Communicate, communicate, communicate!  

  • Draw up a schedule for regular communication in the form of announcements or perhaps with a short video. The content can be general feedback on the previous week and a brief introduction on what students should do and why during the coming week.
  • Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect plan; instead you must listen and be prepared to make the necessary adjustments to your strategy.
  • Sometimes, “adults” is used (in a negative sense) to describe students. Instead, think of it as something positive and always treat them as adults with ambitions, interests, abilities and flaws.
  • Engage in your students by being available in different ways. In times of crisis, use one approach; in their everyday routine, use another. And everything in between. If you engage, so will your students. Set the tone right from the start of the course. 

 

Would you like to add interactivity in your course? 

Here are some guides in Canvas. 

Anouncements

Canvas Guide: How to add an announcement to your course

Canvas Guides - Announcements overview

Discussions

Canvas Guide: How do I as an instructor create a discussion? 

Canvas Guides - Discussions overview

Video with Studio

Canvas LU Guide: Get started with Studio

Canvas Guide - Studio overview