Making Your Course Engaging ...even when there's no one else around

This wiki page applies to you if you are designing a course for standard web. That means your course:
  • is not cohort-based
  • students can begin anytime (continuous enrollment) and
  • learners have 30 weeks to complete their work.

Students who sign up for a standard web course commit themselves to study independently. We have to honour that. Hence, discussions or group project are not an option in this delivery method.


Creating new relationships

Given the absence of peer-to-peer collaboration in a standard web course, it is possible to to facilitate other interactions:

  • student-Open Learning Faculty Member, and
  • student-community.

Deepening student-teacher interactions:
The primary, possibly even the sole contact person for the learner is his or her Open Learning Faculty Member. You may want to consider ways of intentionally deepening that relationship without adding a lot more work to the duties and responsibilities of the Open Learning Faculty Member.

For example, students could be asked to journal their growth throughout the course and then to share that journal with their Open Learning Faculty Member. In addition, consider integrating a textbox in your modules or units called "A Question to Consider". For bonus points students can reflect on a pertinent question in their journal. Such personal exchanges can foster a sense of belonging and keep the student engaged with the course.
Deepening student-community interactions:
In the absence of a cohort of fellow learners, students may feel more isolated and alone, which can negatively impact their motivation. Thus, you many want to consider developing a learning activity or assignment that requires them to build a new community outside the course.

Here are a few real-life examples from Open Learning courses that are currently in use:
  • Conduct interviews. These interviews with experts in the field can be conducted and recorded by Skype or in person. In one of our tourism classes, students are asked to interview leisure providers in their community in order to analyze if they adhere to the latest industry standards.

  • Group/partner work with outsiders. In an Open Learning Psychology course students are asked to conduct an experiment with a friend who is not in the class.

  • Conduct surveys or polls: In another course students poll their friends, family and acquaintances. Social media, such as Facebook/Twitter or Survey Monkey are ubiquitous and free to use. Results can be posted in the student's blog.

  • Interactive learning activities: Integrate online quizzes, games, and videos into your course. In one OL biology course students review their new vocabulary with custom made crosswords puzzles and then they build a model of the human brain.

  • Creative learning activities: Ask your learners to make a multimedia production, such as a slide shows, posters, podcasts and so forth. For more ideas and tools to realize them, check out "Inspiration 2 - eLearning Tools."

  • Publisher resources: If you are using a textbook produced by one of the major publishers, ask about their supplementary resources. Often publishers will be happy to provide you with extras like flashcards, videos, games, simulations, case studies, glossaries, exams, computer-based exercises, etc.

  • "Real world" work: Ask students to apply their learning in their world by engaging in a community service project, or seeking out experts... anything to get them engaged with fellow human beings in an appropriate and safe manner. (Keep in mind that some of our learners live in remote areas and/or come from outside North America.)

I hope that these first few Inspiration wiki pages gave you a plethora or ideas on how you can make your course come alive and authentically engage your students. It may be a good time now to move on to Stage 2: Planning.