3 Student Engagement

Students in a classroom seated at long tables
Students in a classroom seated at long tables. Image provided by University of Baltimore.

As we learned in the previous section, a community of inquiry is constructed through three interdependent presences: teaching, social, and cognitive. Creating and sustaining engagement throughout an online or remote course can be accomplished with planning and strategic action.

How can I create and sustain engagement in my course?

Consider how you will foster each type of presence in your course to maintain student engagement. It’s vital to success, especially for online and remote courses. As you’ll see, many of these strategies overlap and support multiple presences, leading to stronger engagement. View the accordion below for instructor strategies.

Interaction is a central tenet of teaching and learning. When instruction moves online, the manner in which students and instructors interact changes. Moore (1989) defined three types of interactions necessary to keep students engaged in an online course: learner-to-instructor, learner-to-learner, and learner-to-content. View the accordion below for different types of student interaction.


As shown above, creating and sustaining social presence in an online course requires careful planning and ongoing action. Because you and your students will not meet in person, it’s important to be strategic about social opportunities in the course. Recall that many strategies for social presence will also support teaching and cognitive presence. Click through the timeline below for more information about sustaining social presence and engagement throughout the course.


How can I tell if students are engaged?

There are several ways you can observe and measure student engagement in your online course. Click the hotspots (plus signs) in the image below to learn more.

Image provided by Gerd Altmann.


If you’d like to assess your own facilitation, check out this facilitation checklist.

Using Technology for Engagement

Technology can be a great way to engage students in an online course, but it’s important to make sure course technologies support learning outcomes. Select technologies strategically and limit their use to about three main tools that will be used throughout the course, rather than just for a single assignment. If using a new technology, an ungraded or low-stakes assignment can help introduce students to the tool.


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Online Teaching Handbook Copyright © 2021 by The Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching, and Technology at The University of Baltimore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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