Open course encourages student success at Waterloo and beyond

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Graphic conceptualizing fostering engagement.By Ceili Minten

A Waterloo course on fostering student engagement in online courses is designed for easy use at international institutions.

Although research shows that students who feel connected to their instructor and to other students do better, there is a lack of quality educational resources to help instructors create and foster these connections.

Noticing this lack of resources, Daniel Opperwall and Kristin Wilson (online learning consultants at the Centre for Extended Learning) created Fostering Engagement: Facilitating Online Courses in Higher Education. It provides evidence-based strategies and best practices to help teaching assistants and instructors to be effective in their roles and to better humanize learning. 

While this resource is text-based, it has also been adapted to LEARN as a training course for TAs and online learning instructors that is offered each term. Some LEARN-specific interactions have been added to make the course more interactive. Over 200 TAs and instructors have taken this course as part of Getting Ready to Facilitate Online.

International use

Daniel OpperwallKristin Wilson photo.Opperwall (left) and Wilson (right) hope that other institutions will use this asset. They avoided Waterloo branding and phrasing. They stayed platform agnostic, knowing that although they planned to use LEARN, platforms vary at other institutions.

Finally, they gave it an open licence. The CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license means that others can use and modify the material to suit the needs of a particular institution as long as certain license requirements are met (e.g., attribution, noting changes if any are made, giving a derivative work the same license as the original).

As the license does not require downstream users to report their use of the asset to the creator(s) and as they have not undertaken marketing yet, they are not sure what the uptake of the course has been.


Opperwall and Wilson hope that others will continue to build upon and improve the course. They hope that it will not only brings awareness about facilitating student engagement but that it will help people consider the value of creating open educational resources (OERs), themselves: sharing intellectual property can help ideas and knowledge evolve.

Ceili Minten provides copyright support at the Centre for Extended Learning.
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