#bestpracticemonday – 5 Ways to “Engagify” Your Online Course

If you are reading any commentary on online learning these days, you cannot read two sentences without bumping into the phrase student engagement. Student engagement happens when students take an active, purposeful step towards their own learning. The challenge for online instructors is to find ways to make their courses promote student engagement. There are many strategies, practices and tools that can help! Here are 5 ways to engagify your online course:

1. Put yourself in the course.

Put yourself in the courseThis blog has covered the need to personalize the online experience for students. One great way to promote engagement and get the students to know you is to make sure that “you” are in your course. This can be done in a number of ways. Uploading a digital photo, providing a Welcome to the Course video, using audio & video to introduce assignments or give feedback and just finding ways to add your personality to the course are just a few examples.

2. Invite students to be the co-pilot on their learning journey.

Student Into CourseIn much the same way you can personalize the course for your students, your students can establish a social presence and take ownership of their learning journey. They do so by uploading their photo, using audio/video tools and building a network of learning within your online course. They can also be content builders when it comes to providing useful content in the online course with wikis, discussions and other interactive tools.

3. Have your students get “pushy” because there’s an app for that.

Push NotificationsPush notifications are everywhere these days. In many ways they prompt your students to interact with their work, friends and world around them. Any major LMS like Blackboard allows students/instructors to enable push notifications to mobile devices to offer reminders about due dates, added content and to interact with each other and the course.

Push notifications are little engagifiers that prompt you and your students to interact with the course and to become engaged with the learning process.

4. Provide academic and technical instructions.

InstructionsWhen you set up your course it is easy to remember to give your students the academic logistics around their course work. They are provided with assignment length, citation criteria and even word count to help them figure out assignment parameters. In many cases, a major disconnect develops for students who don’t know how to use the software tool to submit the assignment. So, remember to provide students with a one or two sentence “how-to” for instructions on uploading or participating in the course activity. If the activity is complex a link to a full set of instructions may be needed.

5. Broaden your portfolio when it comes to course activities.

Diverse PortfolioImagine having to eat the same meal 3 times a day 5 days a week. Not very appetizing is it? Now, take those thoughts and apply them to your course. Does your weekly activity look suspiciously like reading, discussion, assignment & quiz? Mashed potatoes again? Try to liven up your course by adding new/different tools. Instead of a reflection paper, have your students do a blog posts instead. Changing up the order of the routine alone can also be a primer for student engagement.

#bestpracticemonday – Be Present in Your Online Course – Establish a Routine

Routine GraphicPart of being available in a course is letting your students know when you are available. A great way to do this is to establish a routine for your course interactions.

  • For starters, you can let them know that you will get back to them on questions posted in your Virtual Office/Q&A discussion forum within a set amount of time (within 24 hours on a weekday for example)*
  • Hold regular “office hours” with the Blackboard Chat or Blackboard Collaborate tool where you will be available in real-time to answer your students questions if need be.
  • Post an announcement and send it out via e-mail once a week summing up the previous weeks events and highlighting the important aspects of the next week.

By establishing a routine you form a habit of being available in your course that your students can count on.

Kaltura Video/Screen Capture & NBC Learn Content How-to’s Added

The Instructional Technology Support Services group at SHSU Online has added 2 new step-by-step walkthroughs to the Teaching Online organization in Blackboard at SHSU.

These Blackboard tools can help increase student engagement and success:

  • NBC Learn Content
  • Kaltura Video/Lecture Capture

NBC Learn LogoNBC Learn Content – Add it to your Course!

NBC Learn contains thousands of professionally made multimedia content archived in easily searchable video collections that are updated regularly: News footage of historic and current events. Primary source documents, articles and political cartoons. Photographs, images, charts, and graphs. Critical analysis and mini-documentaries covering topics across academic disciplines.

Kaltura LogoKaltura Video/Lecture Capture

Bring video to Blackboard with this easy to use Blackboard Building Block.

Easily upload videos, images, audio files and documents, create video clips, screen casts, and video assignments. Content is secured and all existing Blackboard permissioning is applied to media files.  Kaltura will encode the video captures, media files, screen casts so that they will play on whatever device the student is viewing Blackboard.

Both of these step-by-step modules can be found in the Teaching Online with Blackboard organization under the Multimedia link in the Org’s nav menu. Once there, click Blackboard Multimedia to find them.

#bestpracticemonday – 4 Ways to Save Time When Teaching Online

clockOne of the concerns we hear from faculty who teach online is that there seems to be a fair amount more work that goes into teaching an online course. Most of the work comes on the front end. Putting into written/audio/video format all of the things you might say in class, and planning and developing your course does take extra time. However, there are things you can do to save time elsewhere that can help even this out.

Here are 4 ways you can save time when Teaching an Online Course:

  1. Work in Groups
  2. Have a Virtual Office
  3. Select/Limit Assignments
  4. Connect Your Course


Group PuzzleGroup work in your online course is important for multiple reasons. We’ve already touched on the importance of making your students take an active part in their learning experience and how course participation can be increased via group work. Another benefit of course groups is that they can help you save time.

With a class full of 30 people you may find yourself grading 30 individual assignments multiple times. Instead, try making some of those assignments group oriented and dividing your course into 5 groups. You can reduce the amount of things you need to read as well as recruit your students to take part in the group assessment.


The name doesn’t matter, but a Virtual Office course Q&A forum services 4 purposes:

  1. Cuts down on the amount of e-mail in your inbox
  2. Gets your students in the habit of checking and using the LMS
  3. Keeps a record of questions and answers.
  4. Keeps you from having to answer a question more than once.

Let’s face it, we all “misplace” e-mail. For some of us our inbox receives a hundred new messages or more each day. Why not make life easier on you and your students by reserving course e-mails for those things of a personal or private nature. You may have to use the first week of the course as a “training week” where you ensure you point your students to the Virtual Office for answers to course questions. Make it a requirement in your syllabus, an expectation on your course expectations page and a question on your Syllabus quiz to ensure students know where to go.

When your students establish the habit of checking the course regularly, they will be more engaged and more successful. When you answer questions via e-mail the only people that see that correspondence are you and the student. Utilizing a discussion forum makes course Q&A visible to everyone in your course, saving you hours of time answering e-mails.


Select your Assignment GraphicRemember the first time you taught? Many of us when we first teach want to take on the world and show the students all the great things that they can do in the course. Mid-way through the semester did you find yourself thinking that you committed to do too much? Working with your online course can provide the same kind of feeling.

Our suggestion is to carefully select your assignments so you are not weighing yourself down with extra grading, proofing and other activities. Your students will appreciate 5 -10 well thought out assignments as opposed the 20 “let’s do everything!” activities in their course. By being particular in what assignments you add to your course you save yourself on grading time, cut down on questions and answers and give your students a more focused learning experience.


Connect PuzzleWhen you travel somewhere for the first time, doesn’t it seem to take a little bit longer to get there than it does to return home? Whether it is unfamiliar surroundings, difficulty reading the map or the GPS isn’t up to date, it can be frustratingly slow to travel to new places.

Think of your online course as that new destination for your students. How would they describe their navigation experience? Would they say that once they travel into your course that it is difficult to find their way back? Would they say that the course links were easy to find and use? Would they be frustrated trying to make it to their “destination”?

Connecting your course by organizing and clearly naming your navigation elements will save your students and ultimately you time when putting together your online course.

Below are steps you can take to connect your course and save time for you and your students:

  • Use Dividers and Subheaders to visually organize your course’s navigation menu.
  • Append the text (Click to Open) on titles for content folders, learning modules, lesson plans, web and course links.
  • Put directions in the content description that direct students to “click” the title to access the content.
  • Make the content item Blue if you want your students to click it
  • Chunk your course content as you would teach it in your face-to-face course. For example: Put all Chapter content in chapter folder with different sub-folders for each chapter.
  • Place a Course Link at the bottom of a unit a study so that the student can navigate back to where they were before easily.