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How to Effectively Facilitate Your Online Course to Drive Student Engagement


 

We interviewed George Mason University Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Management Professor, Patrick Soleymani about building student engagement in online Management courses.

How would you recommend a new faculty member get started?

“I suggest faculty assign exercises that challenge students and keep them engaged in the content. These include video cases, Manager’s Hot Seat Videos, Application-Based Activities, and self-assessments. I usually assign a mix of three of these exercises in my online classes each week. The great thing is they are all auto-graded, so it doesn't make extra work for me.”

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

"I think providing students with feedback on the assignments is important. I set my McGraw Hill Connect® assignments to only deliver scores before the deadline (so students can't share answers) and then release detailed feedback after the deadline. This way, students can better understand what they got right or wrong, and why. This not only helps them with exams but also keeps them engaged because they are learning from their mistakes.

Another standard I think is important is being in frequent communication with your students. I message my students 2-3 times a week, depending on what is going on that week. Yes, students need to be very organized in online classes, but that doesn't mean we can't remind them of deadlines and give them tips. This way, they are more on top of their coursework and more engaged in class."

Finally, we need to ensure that our students find our assignments meaningful so they are more engaged. I not only describe what activities I’ve assigned students in my syllabus, but I also tell them why I assigned it. Making this connection helps students understand why they are devoting time to an assignment (other than for a grade) and how it will help their professional aspirations.

What specific Connect tools would you recommend using?

“I recommend using video cases, Manager's Hot Seats, Application-Based Activities, and self-assessments to drive student engagement. I've discussed the first three tools in more detail in my previous article. However, I wanted to more closely focus on self-assessments here. I've found self-assessments to be a great tool for increasing student engagement. When students learn something about themselves and can connect it to the course material, they get more engaged. For example, imagine if a student learns from a self-assessment that they are not trusting of others in teams. That would make them a lot more interested in the groups and teams chapter!”

How would you use Application-Based Activities?

“My favorite tool for driving student engagement are the Application-Based Activities. As I've mentioned before, these put students in the driver's seat and allow them to make real-world decisions without having to face real-world consequences. Students are able to participate in "choose your own adventure" simulations, and different students may see different outcomes based on their decisions. Moreover, students get to think critically and solve problems by reviewing graphs, charts, figures, etc. while they are making decisions. This method allows them to evaluate and analyze material instead of being "spoon-fed" information. Overall, these simulations are a great way for students to be more career ready!”

About the Author

Patrick Soleymani is Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Assistant Professor of Management at Mason’s School of Business. He teaches Organizational Behavior, Principles of Management and Entrepreneurship courses.

Profile Photo of Patrick Soleymani