Engagement

Engaging students online – Day 5

Create a communication and engagement plan

As we approach the end of this course, we’ll be doing something a little bit different. There won’t be much content from the facilitators; rather, I’d like you to use your 10 minutes for this post to create a communication and engagement plan for your course. If you are not currently teaching, create a plan for a course you might teach soon or would like to teach. Think about what sorts of activities or strategies you could create to help foster engagement, based on the principles we’ve discussed throughout this course. Just share some notes or dot points about what you plan to do in the comments (videos are always welcome, if you are feeling adventurous).

A cat stares at the camera across a keyboard.
Photo by Steven Ottens

You could include the following:

  • How will you start off your course? (Icebreaker activity, welcome email, etc)
  • What expectations will you set for students in terms of engagement and communication?
  • What are your expectations for your own participation, and the participation of the other teachers in your course?
  • How is participation encouraged? Why should students do it? How is participation connected to the course or program learning outcomes?
  • Is participation or engagement assessed? If so, how?
  • What tools will you use to communicate with students? (Email, forums, live chat, etc)
  • What strategies will you apply to managing the forums or discussions?
  • What will you do if engagement from students is lacking?
  • How will you address the concerns of Gourlay and Dennen (from the Day 4 post) about mandatory student engagement privileging some students over others?

Share your plan in the comments, and give some feedback to your colleagues.

 

21 thoughts on “Engaging students online – Day 5

  1. Hmm, let’s invent my dream course. An online course about using data visualisation as a tool for conducting science (not just making a pretty picture at the end).

    – Start; icebreaker if introducing self, and finding two example data visualisations – one they like, one they don’t. This should start discussion immediately.
    – Engagement expectations will focus more on submitting set assignments/tasks on time, than on number of posts in discussion board. However, some of the assignments will require undertaking discussion (e.g. find someone to swap your example visualisations with, reflect on their take on them and whether or not you agree, then apply how the course teaches you to view them).
    – Similar to the expectations for students; tasks and deadlines will be set in stone, communication/collaboration in achieving those tasks is recommended but not do-or-die.
    – Participation is encouraged by its requisite status as a grading criterion (can’t pass the test if you don’t do the test). Assessment should be skewed to meet course outlines, thus tying participation to course outcomes.
    – Participation and engagement are not directly assessed; the nice thing about online learning is that everyone can approach things at the pace and in the style they most like (e.g. no requisite conversation in tutorial, no requisite textbooks, just whatever combination of the two works for the student). This will require some maturity and self-reflection on the student’s part, but I feel learning how you best learn (e.g. realising the “I work best under pressure” cop-out is a cop-out 90% of the time; no you can’t absorb complex information while also checking Facebook) is a valuable course outcome in itself.
    – I’d primarily use public discussion forums and live chat (where the chat log is saved and displayed later). Closed one-on-one things like email get tangled too quickly when trying to share with the whole course.
    – Ideally, I’d have someone else managing forums and discussions (a TA), so I could be left to focus on the knowledge transfer – so engaging with/contributing to discussion, rather than ensuring undergraduate2011 doesn’t use crude language when refuting someperson4847’s argument.
    – Engagement isn’t an end in itself. If engagement seems to be lacking but my assessment tells me students are actually hitting the learning milestones I’m hoping for, no problem. If they’re not, I’d better collect some data about why (quick survey to ask them, maybe show the course to a colleague with solid teaching chops) then re-jigg the course to address the issue.
    – Hopefully my overall approach does address the concerns from Gourlay and Dennon.

    I look forward to seeing what everyone else comes up with for this activity.

    1. Erin, I’m in! How do I enrol?
      Thinking about a f2f course that I will be TAing on in Semester 2, led by a dynamic and open-to-new-ideas lecturer, I would be adding these suggestions in for our upcoming planning chat (in May) so that we push Wattle as far as we can to integrate some form of online learning:
      – use Wattle online forum to introduce ourselves (video, 3 mins, ‘approachable and excited about the course’ vibe) before the course starts
      – encourage students to do the same (could be uploading a photo or an avatar of themselves, or posting a little blurb, or even a little video or audio or a link to their own blogs)
      – working out in advance a publication schedule for the News Forum with good content so that we can load this up in advance and set regualr publication dates before semester starts (take the heavy lifting out of every week finding stuff)
      – ideally, and this would be absoutely amazing and probably not feasible, integrating flipped classroom format so that lecture time & tutorial time can be spent in role plays and small group exercises putting into practice pre-recorded lectures that we would upload to Wattle using Echo360 — drip fed every week with content released at the same time so that students can start to plan out their work schedule and get a good routine going
      – use Wattle forums to extend the f2f experience, keeping the conversation going **somehow** – I would like to see students pick a specific role to play (either moderator for a week of an online forum, quiz master for a giant 100 question ‘whats on in the world this week’ virtual trivia night, roaming journalist to interview an ANU specialist on a topic for 3 mins, or something that invovles either writing or talking about a topic in an unstructured, free form way in a format that can be shared with all where students can be their extroverted or introverted selves while still be challenged to go beyond their comfort zone somewhat)
      – also use Wattle to prep for our in-class simulations that will happen in the latter part of semester, so in the days leading up to the f2f session, have little bits of info drip-fed to build up momentum for the session

      I am a big believer in a small number of assessments – capped at 3 or 4 – as assessment tasks are only as good as the feedback that loops back to students. I’d rather focus my marking attention on deep, insightful helpful feedback on a small number of pieces rather than get the students to do a stack of work which I then wont have time or will power to provide feedback commensurate to the effort that they put in.

      That said, I know that it is possible to monitor to a certain extent things like how many Wattle log-ins have happened. I will be aware of that as a basic measure of how much attention students are putting in to the course, and it might eventually leave a trace, particularly when students are on the cusp of of a pass/credit or other hurdle. I will of course disclose this up front so that students have a fighting chance! Not that logging in to Wattle tells us much at all about active learning, but it does show that stduents are paying attention to the clues given to them about how to impress those marking their grades…

      1. What great roles you have thought about Thea! The “roaming journalist” and quizmaster are a really creative response to getting some diversity and fun happening in your discussions. Next time I am teaching I might have to try those myself!

    2. Hi Erin, thanks for your thoughtful plan. I think it negotiates the complexities of online engagement very deftly. I like the separation of roles between teaching staff to ensure not everyone is spending too much time in the forums reading everything, but someone is. I thought the survey to check on how students are doing was a great idea, so that students can reflect and report on how they are progressing without too much pressure to post something in the forum every week.

  2. My courses are “regular” face-to-face courses, so here I will focus on the online component:

    -provide a video introduction that attempts to convey my enthusiasm for the course (if this isn’t too embarrassing I will try to get this playing in the foyer of the School as well as the Wattle site)
    -in the week before the course begins, introduce the main discussion forum with a brief post that describes the role of the forum and my expectations – using language that is welcoming and informal
    -provide timely, supportive comments for all discussion items, blogs and comments posted online by students
    -provide a thought-provoking post on the forum when activity has waned
    -early in the course post a blog (via WordPress but with a feed onto the course Wattle site) that provides an example of the blog assessment task – and encourage comments
    -in the marking criteria for the blog, require students to comment on at least two blogs posted by their peers (still not sure about this one)
    -provide an online opportunity for students to review some of the course material using the lesson tool in Wattle (not assessed)
    -conduct one tutorial online rather than face-to-face
    -review activity on all online material half-way through, and at the completion, of the course.

  3. I plan to introduce myself through a video next semester. I will start on-line consultation instead of current F2F consultation. I prefer not to give marks on the basis of online engagement since it is difficult to separate the genuine participation from some other students’ posts which were written just because the participation is compulsory. Gradually, I plan to move to a virtual classroom at least for one tutorial.

  4. Being in clinical medicine. I would start with a real patient talking about their problems and how managed. Participation through actually going out and seeing more patients from what is learnt and practise rather than engagement within session.
    Then discussion between students on their experience seeing patients

  5. Communication and engagement plan:

    The Tutor’s Guide for my course “ICT Sustainability” (COMP7310) is an engagement plan, of sorts: http://www.tomw.net.au/ict_sustainability/tutors.shtml

    * How will you start off your course?

    Standard icebreaker of the tutor welcome message, invite students to introduce themselves and ask them to outline what they want from the course.

    * What expectations will you set for students in terms of engagement and communication?

    Number, size and spacing of student contributions is specified in the course notes.

    * What are your expectations for your own participation…

    Specified in the tutor guide.

    * How is participation encouraged?

    The tutor notes give tips for drawing out nonparticipating students and suggested wording of postings.

    * Why should students do it?

    This is a good way to learn. But to make sure students do it, participation is assessed and is mandatory.

    * How is participation connected to the course or program learning outcomes?

    The course modules are linked to specific learning objectives.

    * Is participation or engagement assessed?

    Of course it is assessed.

    * What tools will you use to communicate with students? (Email, forums, live chat, etc)

    Forums and dialog tool. I avoid using email with students as it creates a large management problem.

    * What strategies will you apply to managing the forums or discussions?

    Monitor, but don’t interfere (“guide on the side”).

    In the weekly feedback to the group I remind everyone that participation is mandatory. For the individual student in a private message I point out their mark for the week is zero due to a lack of participation. I only normally need to do this for weeks one and two. Some students still don’t participle and I refer them to the program convener.

    * How will you address the concerns of Gourlay and Dennen.

    I design the participation based on the skills students are required to have to enroll in the course. As an example, I calculate how much time a student will take to read the set materials and discussion, based on published figures for students with angelfish as a second language at the level the ANU requires. Some years ago there was a problem with students not meeting the required communication standard. I suggested this be part of an introductory course and “Communication for Computing Professionals” was introduced, which largely solved the problem: http://programsandcourses.anu.edu.au/course/COMP8701

  6. Icebreaker: if I manage it I would like to welcome students with a short video where I would introduce myself but also show my deep enthusiasm for all the topics approached in the course.
    Engagement: well I think I will do what I used to do that is clearly summarise all the course’s hurdles (those that are marked) and link them to the course’s learning outcomes (this is in the course guide but I think it doesn’t hurt reminding students about them). Yet I will also remind students that other learning activities are offered (non-marked self-tests, forum, extra resources and readings…). Finally, I will clearly show students the value of the course to their everyday life (that is what I always do too and I think it can promote engagement).
    I will keep the forum’s postings non-assessable but I think I will try to create a more lively forum by implementing some of the elements we discussed (i.e. assigning roles to students, posting more reflections or questions…). This way I might also reduce my workload!
    I will maintain a close relationship with my students (not always one on one but I will make sure I remain involved in the forum throughout the semester and that I answer all postings or send general comments when postings are similar). Sometime if needs be, I will contact students individually (for example when I notice they are having difficulties or are not submitting their assessments) but I will make sure I am not dominating them, that they don’t feel like they are “told off”, I will aim at showing that I care about them.
    This year, I have two tutors who are going to help with marking the main reflective assessments of the course so hopefully I will be able to find more time to engage with my students and to keep an eye on their engagement too. Hopefully I might also have great new ideas as I will have more time to reflect on the best ways to facilitate student’s learning as the semester goes!

  7. My communication plan for a new “blended” course:
    • How will you start off your course? (Icebreaker activity, welcome email, etc)
    Short welcome video , like Katie did (scripted but not visibly so!)
    • What expectations will you set for students in terms of engagement and communication?
    I am thinking of asking open questions on forum to let it start, (with the 200 word limit suggested here on answers), and answering some but not all posts. Expecting students to answer them for each other and just diving in where needed. Sat/Unsat weekly marks attached . Weekly webinar to work on outstanding questions/general topics I can pick up from forum.
    • What are your expectations for your own participation, and the participation of the other teachers in your course?
    Be prompt with forum questions – make it obvious that I am there (all me, no tutors at this time). Course has F2F intensive week halfway, for which specific meet-and –greet activity will be planned with tutors. After F2F tutors will be more involved with supporting assessment tasks – maybe make separate class-based fora here.
    • How is participation encouraged? Why should students do it? How is participation connected to the course or program learning outcomes?
    Seed discussion weekly with open questions on current course topics.
    • Is participation or engagement assessed? If so, how?
    Sat/Unsat weekly marks attached for forum discussion. Minimal marks for encouragement (and to reward those who find it difficult).
    • What tools will you use to communicate with students? (Email, forums, live chat, etc)
    Forum plus weekly webinar to answer remaining questions picked up from forum.
    • What strategies will you apply to managing the forums or discussions?
    Seed questions, sow them I am watching by answering sometimes, encourage peer answering and discussion. Note that peer answering is often attractive to advanced learners otherwise getting bored.
    • What will you do if engagement from students is lacking?
    Remind them to ask questions feeding in to weekly webinar.
    • How will you address the concerns of Gourlay and Dennen (from the Day 4 post) about mandatory student engagement privileging some students over others?
    Low bar on participation to earn marks – 1 post per week, 250 words. Recognise the value that lurkers may be getting. Consider doing something special with identified non-participants in f2f week?- Not yet figured out.

  8. I am the tutor for a course that is being offered both online and face to face – we are trying to ensure that we foster engagement from both types of student.

    How will you start off your course? (Icebreaker activity, welcome email, etc)
    – We have recorded “welcome” videos as per the suggestion in this course, which will hopefully encourage students to introduce themselves in the online discussion forums

    What expectations will you set for students in terms of engagement and communication?
    – Students are expected to answer set topics in the discussion forums, and hopefully to discuss their answers/ideas between each other. Participation in the online forum represents 10% of the total mark of the course. For “tutorial activities”, online students will be asked to form pairs (there is a separate forum for this to happen) and work together on the same activity that face-to-face students will do in class.

    What are your expectations for your own participation, and the participation of the other teachers in your course?
    – As the tutor, my main role will be to interact with the students on the online forum, and to try and encourage them to continue discussions. Lecturers for each session will be asked to provide feedback on short video presentations that online students will submit for each “tutorial activity”

    How is participation encouraged? Why should students do it? How is participation connected to the course or program learning outcomes?
    – I think having the online discussion forum represent 10% of the mark for the course is an incentive for students to participate. The discussion forum topics have been designed to make students think about and reflect on the content of the lectures.

    What strategies will you apply to managing the forums or discussions?
    – I will try to respond to most of the posts in the forum, and to point out similarities (or conflicting views) between different student posts to encourage discussion

    What will you do if engagement from students is lacking?
    – Some of the ideas in this course have been helpful. I think perhaps a public post in the forum thanking those who have participated, followed by individual emails to see if there is anything that we can do to help encourage participation, are good strategies. It will be a learning process for all of us!

    1. Naomi – so excited to hear you have recorded welcome videos! I hope they help to establish a sense of personality & engagement in your upcoming course. It’s an interesting challenge to deliver a course simultaneously to online and on-campus students. Good luck this semester!

  9. I enjoyed this course very much. So much to learn ! Thank you for the references at the end. F2F is another challenging situation in terms of student engagement. I don’t teach online courses at present – only F2F- and an experience with a Colombian student that I narrated in my week 4 post was very eye-opening for me.

    Probably it will help to ask the students what they consider to be engagement from their own perspective. I am going to spend sometime on this on my first lecture of this semester on Friday. Would have been happy to join for the Coffee but may be on some other occasion.

    Thanks you heaps for running this online course. If you are going to run similar courses in the future please consider me to be a permanent participant !

  10. Here is our engagement plan for the course i am convening this semester – offered both online and f2f (of note is that all lectures are delivered on line and participation is partly assessed on line as well. the f2f consists of 2 hour tutorials (similar exercises are run online).
    *How will you start off your course? (Icebreaker activity, welcome email, etc) – i have recorded a lecture 0 where i go through the course outline and housekeeping rules, including expectations around engagement and participation. i also introduce myself and the tutor (Naomi) does the same.
    *What expectations will you set for students in terms of engagement and communication? for all students – there are online MCQ for every weekely session, (10% of grade), and a Question for online discussion (also one per week, and also 10% of mark). there are 2 additional online channels for communication – a discussion forum – if students / lecturers/ want to raise other issues & comments and a studenf forum (for non content discussions). Tutorials count 10% of mark and imply a presentation by the students (to the class or online)
    *What are your expectations for your own participation, and the participation of the other teachers in your course? Our course has less than 10 students so i hope that we can address each comment individually – btw the tutor and myself, I will also request lecturers to visit the wattle site periodically but not sure this will work…
    *How is participation encouraged? Why should students do it? How is participation connected to the course or program learning outcomes? See above, online participation is assessed – not for its content, mainly for the participating itself (eg – students can try the MCQs as many times as they want till they get them right)
    *What tools will you use to communicate with students? (Email, forums, live chat, etc)?
    Wattle discussion forums and wattle announcement. can also use email if individual msg are needed – ideally through wattle as well so we can keep track of communication. furthermore i understand that students are supposed to chose a student rep whom i should be meeting periodically.
    *What strategies will you apply to managing the forums or discussions? If numbers allow (and time – attempt indivdual replies to posts, if not then post a reply that summarises several of the comments.
    *What will you do if engagement from students is lacking? Initially a group reminder/congratulatory message acknowledging the fact that some already posted comments; then individual msg probing whether each particular studnet who is not participating needs some extra support.
    We will also make use of the calender to remind them of deadlines for MCQ, and Q&A and essays.

  11. This is my communication plan for a new course. It will be a blended course but with a larger online component.
    • How will you start off your course? (Icebreaker activity, welcome email, etc)
    I have previously done a prerecorded short pod cast but this time I will take the leap into video! I usually do welcome announcements and an icebreaker Kahoot! survey in tutorials
    • What expectations will you set for students in terms of engagement and communication?
    This is still in the planning stage but I am hoping to link participation to a peer review assessment. Students will be required to review a peer’s presentation and provide feedback that is uploaded to Moodle. Students will be required to post reflections on the peer feedback as part of their final submission.
    I usually outline early in semester email and forum post etiquette, how to give feedback (constructive , specific & actionable) and how they can participate in the online environment.
    • What are your expectations for your own participation, and the participation of the other teachers in your course?
    I will allow time for students to respond to each other first and then will jump in if there are no students responses or things are off track. I am planning to use Moodle messaging as the primary communication method with students rather than email. I am hoping that students will see these messages earlier as they infrequently check student emails.
    • How is participation encouraged? Why should students do it? How is participation connected to the course or program learning outcomes?
    I think I will post a weekly ‘food for thought’ question to engage discussion and in essence role model participation. I will outline how peer review and participation in these forums related to the Standards for Practice and the unit learning objectives.
    • Is participation or engagement assessed? If so, how?
    Not sure yet! Still on the fence about this one. As I mentioned earlier I may link it to the peer assessment task somehow. I do like the idea of requiring them to do a short post each week in response to a questions and/or post a question themselves. I would likely allocated a relatively small portion of marks for participation.
    • What tools will you use to communicate with students? (Email, forums, live chat, etc)
    Student forum, Moodle messaging, email and possibly a live Blackboard Q&A type session once a week.
    • What strategies will you apply to managing the forums or discussions?
    I tend to keep an eye on how discussions are progressing to ensure that the original question has been answered. I often add feedback where answers are well considered and supported with evidence so that other students can see what constitutes an effective post.
    • How will you address the concerns of Gourlay and Dennen (from the Day 4 post) about mandatory student engagement privileging some students over others?
    I will consider the participation of students in both face-to-face and online environments to identify potential lurkers. I may be able to encourage participation of lurkers more in the F2F environment to give them the confidence or awareness of the benefits of online participation in relation to clinical practice. Having said that, learning for lurkers may still be taking place in other environments so I would acknowledge and not discount strategies that may be working quite effectively for them.

  12. My course is a language course with online ‘lecturers’ and a 1-hour face to face tutorial every week.

    1. I would want to start with a video introduction but would have the students introduce themselves in the tutorial.
    2. I will set up two forums: one for my house-keeping announcements and one for both students and me to share resources, ideas, questions in several threads.
    3. For online engagement I would use individual assessable and non-assessable assignments and the informal forum. Because there is a f2f component, I wouldn’t be too worried if there’s a lack of online engagement.

  13. Communication and engagement plan

    I’ve never really mapped out my communication and engagement plan so I find this activity incredibly useful and helpful.

    A short version of my plan would be –

    I would start my course with a welcome/introduction video from me. This will be in a forum where students can tell the class about themselves using a line from a movie, a poem, a song…. even an image or video. I will kick-off the ice breaker activity by posting my answer.

    All important course-related announcements directed to the whole class will be made thru the Moodle announcements forum. I will email individual students for individual concerns. Students are welcome to email me anytime, but I need 48 hours max to reply.

    I would design different activities to encourage participation such as polls, discussion forum, an online bulletin board, perhaps peer feedback. I am also welcome to video and audio responses instead of the usual text based responses.

    I have always opened a graded discussion forum but after taking this course, I’m wondering if I can do away with that and open more avenues to show students’ learning.

    I have always managed the forums and discussions but I would like to try the idea that was shared by one of the participants in this course to have students summarize or facilitate some forums. I will still supervise but it’s good to have students involved and empowered. In fact, some of them are better than me when it comes to encouraging participation.

  14. How will you start off your course? A welcome message in the top of the Wattle page and also a Welcome message/email in the announcements section on the Wattle discussion portal.

    What expectations will you set for students in terms of engagement and communication? I will make a concise code of conduct list and also give evidence from previous years that engagement in face-to-face and online activities and offline active learning exercises has previously contributed signifiantly to the students’ marks.

    What are your expectations for your own participation, and the participation of the other teachers in your course? All teachers need to share their materials on Wattle at least a day before the learning activities (e.g., lecture), we try to reply to all discussion forum posts within 24 hours (on average 2 hours — not meaning giving the answer necessarily but scaffolding learning via follow up questions or reading tips), and allocating time to take questions in the classroom

    How is participation encouraged? Why should students do it? How is participation connected to the course or program learning outcomes?
    The aforementioned evidence about marks plus motivation by getting oneself job-ready plus motivation that the learning peers will become the future leaders, and hence good interaction with peers leads to awesome professional networks in the future.

    Is participation or engagement assessed? If so, how?
    No (I used to have this before but find the policy and privilege around this tricky)

    What tools will you use to communicate with students? (Email, forums, live chat, etc)
    Forums, email, polling apps, quizzes, live chat

    What strategies will you apply to managing the forums or discussions?
    Ground rules + constant monitoring + thoughtful responses. Careful checking if the student wishes to stay anonymous to classmates before beginning Dear Name.

    What will you do if engagement from students is lacking?
    See if any of the tips above might do the tricks and turn to my peers plus student reps to see if their ideas might help

    How will you address the concerns of Gourlay and Dennen (from the Day 4 post) about mandatory student engagement privileging some students over others?
    Not giving marks from participation and not judging those who are silent

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