When the design phase of a course is complete, it may seem like the work of creating a great online learning experience is mostly finished. But content, assessments, activities, and other essential course elements are just the beginning of teaching online. Once students enroll, and a course begins to run actively, your role as facilitator becomes the key to success for most or all of your students.

As our title suggests, we believe that fostering student engagement is the heart and soul of great online course facilitation. When students feel connected, focused, energized, and supported, their learning will reach its maximum potential. In the coming units, we will offer some concrete advice for how you as a facilitator can help students to become and remain engaged with your course. However, before we turn to specific considerations and strategies, we will begin in this unit by exploring the meaning and importance of engagement itself in the context of online education.

Key concepts

This unit will introduce the following important topics, concepts, and strategies:

  • Three forms of student engagement
    • Cognitive engagement and factors that support it
    • Emotional engagement and the role of cognitive emotions in learning
    • Behavioural engagement
  • Interpersonal and social aspects of teaching online
  • How transactional distance factors into online facilitation
  • Community of Inquiry Framework and how to build social presence
  • Three key modes of interaction for online courses

Unit sections

2a. The importance of student engagement

2b. Community and interaction

Supplementary resources

Community of Inquiry (CoI) Framework: 

Online course design

  • User Experience Design for Learning (UXDL)  is a resource developed at the Centre for Extended Learning at the University of Waterloo that provides practical strategies for designing educational resources that are useful, desirable, accessible, intuitive, and credible.
  • Clark, R. & Mayer, R. E. (2016). E-learning and the science of instruction (4th ed.). San Francisco: Pfeiffer.
  • Mayer, R. E. (Ed.). (2014). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mayer, R. E. (2017). Using multimedia for e-learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 33, 403-423.