Here’s another story in a series from the Centre for Teaching Excellence to facilitate cross-institutional sharing of strategies for remote teaching. This story is a follow-up to the Management Sciences' Collaborative Approach to Remote Teaching article.
When teaching online, creating an environment where students can actively engage with their instructors, peers, and course content "increases student satisfaction, enhances student motivation to learn, reduces the sense of isolation, and improves student performance in online courses” (Bolliger & Martin, 2018). This document consists of some of the lessons that Waterloo’s Management Sciences (MSCI) department has learned about fostering engagement in a remote teaching context. There were many lessons over the term!
Student-instructor engagement can have a significant impact on student learning and affect learning outcomes (Bolliger & Martin, 2018), enhancing the quality of teaching and student learning experience. Here are some ways to foster mutual engagement in remote teaching that the MSCI team found useful.
- Devise strategies and opportunities to foster connection more frequently throughout the term, beyond what you might do in a face-to-face course.
- Offer several live Q&A sessions, personalize your emails to students, and communicate your targeted turnaround time for responding.
- Create frequent, anonymous feedback opportunities for your students to share perceived challenges and provide management-style constructive feedback – how they think the problem can best be resolved.
Student-content engagement is especially important for students to support their own learning in a remote setting. Here are some ways from MSCI’s experience to help students effectively engage with the course content.
- Consider a partially flipped-classroom approach to create opportunities for students to engage in online activities that promote active learning. For example, students can be given a weekly short assignment based on the next week’s topics to become prepared for future lessons – this creates a cascade in the course content.
- Incorporate higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy in the learning activities and assessments to support learning outcomes that promote depth in student learning. This can include discussions about assumptions and reflection activities; encourage students to think about the learning process and develop their metacognitive skills.
- Provide students with a weekly schedule and checklist of required activities and assignments. Remember to establish a pattern to not be late with your deliverables, deliver what is promised and don’t surprise students by announcing that there will be a quiz or test the next day.
- If you are live streaming your lectures, keep them to under an hour and no more than twice a week. Ensure that students have the opportunity for Q&A – even up to half of the session. Students want to hear from you, therefore be sure to keep lectures personalized and limit the number of external and third-party resources.
- If you are prerecording your lectures, keep them to segments of 15 minutes or less and provide coordinated opportunities for students to ask questions after – for example, via a discussion board or a subsequent online chat.
- When possible, stick to educational technologies – such as LEARN – that you and your students are already familiar with to limit learning curves. If you have to introduce something new, go slowly and gently.
Lessons to mitigate
While the MSCI team had anticipated that the students’ efficiency and effectiveness would be impacted remotely compared to on-campus learning, it was noted that a number of factors were not fully mitigated when reflecting on this past term.
- The first and last week of the term has significant impact as students get their bearings and sort things out, including dealing with multiple end-of-term assessments and projects. This needs to be accounted in expectations on students’ capacity and capability.
- The duration and impact of numerous assignments and assessments students need to be accounted for, particularly in a remote setting. It’s important to be flexible, compassionate and not overload students as they are also navigating tools on their own.
- Students interpret the efforts that instructors put in moving classes online as an indication that the instructor cares and is trying to provide a quality experience.
- While it was advised that instructors make and stick to schedules, this can be difficult, and delays in uploading deliverables on time, or changing due dates can have major impacts on the students – more than expected.
The Management Science department looks forward to implementing these and other lessons learned as the university continues to teach remotely in the Fall term and has planned onboarding initiatives to further engage incoming students to an online learning environment.
Martin, F. & Bolliger, D.U. (2018). Engagement matters: Student perceptions on the importance of engagement strategies in the online learning environment. Online Learning 22(1), 205- 222. doi:10.24059/olj.v22i1.1092