Internal - Faculty & Staff

Developing Materials that Engage Your Students

Student Engagement is Critical

  1. Use a variety of assignment types. No one wants to participate in a repetitive, overly-predictable course. Additionally, using a variety of assignment types will reach students with different learning styles, and will give students a chance to learn more skills.
  2. Start to engage students early in the course. The first assignment is a good indicator of whether a student will complete the course. Interesting, provocative assignments early in the course draw students in, habituate them to the kinds of coursework you have planned, and engage them actively in the larger course community.
  3. Be clear and consistent. Communicate clear expectations for participation and completion of assignments. Make sure the work can be completed by each student on his or her own. Students should not be left to wonder whether they are proceeding correctly at any point along their path to completion of the work. Thus, your instructions on how to do the assignments have to be explicit.
  4. Create assignments that are meaningful to students, that relate to their lives and that matter in the “real” world.
  5. Link assignments to authentic assessments.
  6. Provide opportunities for students to be creative and to think critically. Take advantage of the Web as a learning environment. The Web offers a wealth of information, services, and tools that can be incorporated into assignments and course activities; you can use its networked, hypertextual nature to stimulate curiosity, encourage exploration, and promote critical thinking.
  7. Assign group projects that require students to collaborate and learn from one another.
  8. Use assignments to connect multiple parts of the course, helping students integrate what they learn, and develop a deeper understanding of the material.
  9. Empower students to direct their own learning by giving students choices. This can make assignments more engaging and allow students to follow their interests and cater the coursework to their learning styles. Provide multiple options for completing assignments or design assignments that allow for multiple types of answers or learning approaches.
  10. Provide exemplars. Examples can act as models that help students learn to develop their own ideas or responses and to think more creatively. Examples can also help students who may not be familiar with expectations or practices for certain types of assignments.

Advantages and Challenges

  • Focus is on student-centered learning. The variety of online tools draw on individual learning styles and helps students become more versatile learners.
  • Online group projects allow students to become more active participants in the learning process and work and learn collaboratively.
  • Students have easy access to global resources online for completion of activities and assignments. Students can easily access online databases and subject experts.
  • Online assignments give students an opportunity to learn and use emerging technologies.
  • Students can be left to wonder whether they are proceeding correctly as they work to complete an assignment.
  • Everything has to be digital or online, so hands on materials that may be used in traditional activities or projects will have to be replaced with a virtual counterpart.
  • Collaborating on group projects can be more challenging for students because they do not naturally have a chance to get to know each other before class or in face-to-face conversations.
  • Assessing individual student participation in group work can be more challenging online, especially for activities that would have traditionally been completed during face-to-face class time while an instructor observed participation and group dynamics.