HE students are voting with their feet, or more likely their e-devices, moving to on-line learning

Nationally and internationally, HE students are voting with their feet, or more likely their e-devices, moving to on-line learning (Department of Education, 2020).

This mode of learning widens participation, providing equity of access for a diverse range of students, including those from regional and remote locations, as well as offering an attractive option in terms of study flexibility.

However, research indicates that student engagement can be challenging in the on-line space, negatively affecting students’ learning and retention. For example, on-line students need to demonstrate greater self-efficacy as they may feel disconnected and isolated, as well as being easily distracted and experiencing self-regulation difficulties due to the complexity of on-line learning contexts.

There are five ways HE teachers can help:

* maintaining teacher presence within the on-line environment – visibly present on-line, responsive in regularly communicating, and interacting with students (e.g., through discussion boards, news announcements, and voice threads), and model active listening and open communication (Garrison, 2016).

* establishing a conducive and safe online learning environment – where there is a strong sense of trust, rapport, and belonging, and where students feel welcomed, safe, and comfortable engaging in productive learning and thinking with others.

* having content which is well structured and interesting in terms of being motivating, and having personal, professional, and contextual relevance and applicability.

*with Explicit expectation management – where explicit expectations about on-line engagement, learning objectives, and recommended ways of working and learning on online are communicated.

* by Providing students with time to engage, or not overloading students with a lot of content which contributes to feelings of being overwhelmed or daunted.

Student engagement in on-line learning is similar to, but also different from, student engagement in face-to-face classrooms and can be highly challenging. We hope that illuminating these five conditions for engagement can provide some practical assistance for assuring quality online learning and contributing to student success.


Dr Alice Brown, School of Education, Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts, University of Southern Queensland [email protected] Her research and publications focus on online student engagement in HE. @DrAMTBrown Linkedin: Dr Alice Brown

Professor Jill Lawrence, Head of School, School of Humanities and Communication, University of Southern Queensland [email protected] Her research interests include student engagement, the first year experience, higher education and cross-cultural communication. @jilllawrence5 Linkedin: jill-lawrence-48135868



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