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How to Effectively Facilitate Your Online Course to Drive Student Engagement


We interviewed Boise State University instructor, Tracie Lee, about building student engagement in online Composition courses.

How would you recommend a new faculty member get started?

“To drive student engagement with McGraw Hill Connect®, have students engage with Connect within the first week of class. Have them log in to set up their account or link it with the LMS. Have them complete at least one assignment, like a SmartBook reading assignment or the introductory assignments, for Connect and SmartBook®.”

What are some of the standards you need to keep in mind?

"I use the OLC Quality Scorecard Suite to assess my course. In terms of student engagement, the standards that Connect facilitates are:

  • Instructor demonstrates presence by engaging actively and frequently throughout the course (I email my online students a week before class begins, the day class begins, and halfway through the first week, with peppy reminders about what's due, invitations to reach out with any questions; I check the status of Connect enrollment and completion of activities and email students who haven't completed the assignment a few hours before the first one is due)
  • Instructor creates a positive, motivating, and encouraging environment (Students have multiple attempts, hints, and detailed explanations in Connect assignments and SmartBook; emails to the class share "real world" examples of what we are learning)
  • Instructor provides activities/assignments that foster student interaction (Connect assignments are generally fill-in-the-blank problems with numbers that change on each attempt; Practice Operations simulations give students the opportunity to make decisions that put in practice what they're learning).
  • Instructor provides clear and specific course expectations for the community in assignments
  • Instructor provides clear, useful, and constructive feedback to students (This is an area in which Connect shines by providing instant, detailed, supportive feedback to students)
  • Instructor provides prompt feedback
  • Instructor communicates to students what they should know in order to focus on learning (I do not assign problems in Connect unless these are areas I would assess; I am also clear with students how to use SmartBook in studying for exams)"

What specific Connect tools would you recommend using?

“I recommend SmartBook, Connect homework (specifically algorithmic problems), and Practice Operations.”

What is your favorite tool in Connect to drive student engagement?

“My favorite tool in Connect to drive student engagement is Practice Operations. I set low stakes for these assignments, so students who don't enjoy simulations will not feel they're being penalized, but the majority of students have a much stronger "emotional" response to the simulations than to lecture videos, SmartBook reading assignments, and homework problems, because the simulation is a model of a business environment, and they get to make decisions and see the outcomes.”