Theory and Application in the Design and Delivery of Engaging Online Courses: Four Key Principles That Drive Student and Instructor Engagement and Success

Theory and Application in the Design and Delivery of Engaging Online Courses: Four Key Principles That Drive Student and Instructor Engagement and Success

Dixie F. Abernathy (Queens University of Charlotte, USA) and Amy Wooten Thornburg (Queens University of Charlotte, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2132-8.ch014

Abstract

For the last quarter of a century, online learning has emerged as a viable and, in many cases, preferable instructional option for higher education students. As this wave of educational change became more prevalent and sought after by students and faculty, at times the implementation, driven by financial benefit as well as student demand, may have advanced beyond the preparation. Research and experience have now exposed numerous issues that may hinder the effectiveness of online learning for all involved stakeholders. Designing effective online courses is the first step, but too often the preparation for and focus on engaging instruction and learning ends as the course design is concluding. Recognizing the key principles behind effective student and instructor engagement may add to the overall stakeholder experience in the online learning environment.
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Introduction

Peruse any Foundations of Education textbook or historical reference of education in America and you will no doubt be reminded of the long-held traditional teaching and learning methods and environments with which students have learned for close to a century. From the early 20th century one-room schoolhouse to the bricks and mortar of the revered university campus, classrooms with teachers, books and papers, and direct instruction with a real time social presence is grounded in the very fiber of what many may consider “schooling” and “learning” in America. For the last quarter of a century, however, a new way of learning has emerged as a viable and, perhaps, even preferable instructional option – online teaching and learning (Allen & Seaman, 2014). There are numerous reasons as to why this mode of learning has gained momentum so quickly, including convenience of online learning, scheduling flexibility of asynchronous programs, reduced cost to colleges and universities, and improved availability of technological tools and access (Luyt, 2013; Neely & Tucker, 2010). As this wave of educational change has become more prevalent and sought after by students and faculty, at times the implementation, driven by financial benefit as well as student demand, may have advanced beyond the preparation (Limperos et al. 2015). Instructors who are well-versed in delivering a face-to-face lecture might now find themselves questioning how their teaching style might translate effectively into a “faceless” online environment. Students who have been accustomed to classroom assistance and real time support may find themselves appreciative of the freedom but struggling with the format of an asynchronous online environment. All of these and more are issues that have been discovered as more schools and institutions of higher education strive to deliver online courses in a valuable and effective manner (Kibritchi et al., 2017).

In defining engagement for the online learner, course designers often view it as “the level of interest students show towards the topic being taught; their interaction with the content, instructor, and peers; and their motivation to learn and progress through the course” (Briggs, 2015, p. 1). There are many professors who lament at the challenge of not only “seeing” their online students engaged but also “feeling” their excitement with the course activities and their connections with fellow students (Briggs, 2015). An application of theory in terms of online teaching and learning unveils a pathway to increased instructor and student engagement, with a related impact on successful online instruction and proficient and satisfied students. Designing effective online courses is the first step, but too often the preparation for and focus on engaging instruction and learning ends as the course design is concluded. Recognizing the key principles behind effective student and instructor engagement may add to the overall stakeholder experience in the online learning environment.

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