Topic 4: How do we keep our students engaged?

Bildresultat för studenter i gammal skolsal

How do we keep our students engaged?

That is one of the most frequently asked questions from a teacher’s point of view.

There might be different outcomes a teacher wants from a course, but we all want students who are interested, who feel inspired and have a great learning outcome.

So what is the trick?

There has been loads of material written about that. I would like to bring up only a few points of view that have helped me to grasp the subject better.

One of the key points in solving this mystery lies within understanding the culture we live in. How the world and the community is changing. What can we expect from the society in the future?  How will it be constructed? How will we communicate?

There are some basic principles regarding education, as Vaughan indicates (Vaughan et al, 2013), referring to the work of Chickering and Gamson (1987): seven principles of higher education. Traditional principles that have worked for two decades.

The fact is, as M.Cleveland-Innes points out in her webinar, that we live in a society with a massive technological revolution. The access of internet and computers are greatly facilitated. There is also a globalization, explosion of information from different sources and the demands for accountability grows. All this puts the pressure for change on the universities today. Also the typical students differ. The learners are adults, who might have jobs and families at the same time as they’re studying, compared to the previous late-teen students with no experience in the working life. In addition to different outsets of their lives as students, they also might have different expectations of the courses, in the light of already having a work experience and different backgrounds.

So how do we combine all these new challenges?

One of the key words seems to be “flexible”, according to M.Cleveland-Innes. This includes learning, design of diverse studies, ways of studying, curriculum, admission, delivery and so on. She also gives seven principles of blended online learning, which stresses on both social and cognitive presence. Those are guidelines that are significant to achieve if we want to success. In an online blended learning the aim is to get the students to participate more and more so they become more engaged. If there’s collaborative learning, they are more active and the outcome is better. Our role is to find activities that help them feel more secure in their groups so that the discussions are more fruitful and  to trigger more inquiry on the subject. Those are just a few remarks.

Finally, there’s always a question: have we succeeded to teach them? Are we content with the outcome from the students? Are the students content with their outcome? A good way to evaluate that is an assessment: both from the teachers and from the students themselves.


1.      Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press.


Topic 3

As a student, I used to do most of my learning on my own. In my (previous) experience that was the easiest and most efficient way. Learning in groups was considered not so futile, in my mind.

Today the society is changing towards a more digitalized world. With it the knowledge and education is evolving and becoming shared in the network environment, more and more. This provides opportunities to connect and collaborate with a lot of other people than those you meet in “real life”, face to face. This is the exciting part. Lately I have changed my opinion about learning.

There are several pedagogical benefits of collaborative learning:  development of critical thinking skills, co-creation of knowledge and meaning, reflection and transformative learning (Brindley 2009)

As a teacher, getting people to collaborate in a class can be difficult. Getting them to collaborate online might be even trickier. If the students never have met face to face, then you got a challenge. Problems like agreeing on a special time for the meetings, connection problems, documents online disappearing,  dependence on the group for the final task, members of the group that do not contribute and so on. But the benefits weigh up: different people come up with different solutions, which can result in several various possibilities for the answer. Students have the support from other students to work with the questions.  The result of the task might be much more complex and broader.

The more the learner works in collaborative manner, the more complex interactive skills are they raising. Brindley mentions four stages: communication, collaboration, cooperation and community (Brindley 2009).  The final will probably not be achieved in a single e-learning course, but is a goal to strive for. The thing is, collaboration can help students increase more complex skills. They also improve their skills in managing problems in different situations with different people. They give the student tools to widen their ability to solve different questions.  But it also commends the teacher to be specific about certain things.

The teacher needs to be very specific with the instructions and expectations. They need to have enough time to solve the task. And finally, but most importantly, there’s got to be a clear constructive feedback from the teacher. That is a prevailing and important issue for all students. In our daily lives we can relate to that even as employees.



Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M. & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).