7 Tips to Design Engaged Learning Courses for Learners

How to Design Courses

A common perception is that online courses require students to read or view videos and then regurgitate the information in an essay or simple discussion post.  However, this is false because numerous activities fully engage online students.

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Design engaged learning Courses

Teaching in a fully online environment can be daunting even for seasoned online instructors to prep a new course.  However, with a few simple strategies, the process can be smooth and enjoyable. Here are four strategies that any instructor can use to Design Engaged Learning Courses. 

1. Involve the Learner

Students should demonstrate their understanding of the content and heighten their Design Engaged Learning Courses with the content throughout any course.  Instructors can incorporate authentic activities that connect real-world relevance and content knowledge. Authentic activities can range from examining case studies to creating problem-based scenarios in which the students research the problem and create solutions or address gaps within the problem.

Instructors also can use inquiry-based learning (IBL), which requires students to investigate questions they have concerning the content.  Online instructors can implement one strategy to establish IBL is implementing Know, Want to Know, and Learned (KWL) charts. Utilizing KWL charts can initiate exploration of the content as students identify what they know and what they want to know about the topic.

Inquiry begins when students explore areas they are unfamiliar with and develop questions to guide them in this exploration.  A final project based on their questions in the KWL chart will guide their learning. However, before students start their final project, they should submit a proposal to the instructor on presenting the material learned to ensure content focus. Final projects can range from but are not limited to research, scholarly or applied extensive discussion-based role-playing, and enactment of practice.

2.  Choose culturally relevant materials.

According to the National Council of Teachers of English, students who don’t find representations of their own cultures in texts are likely to lose interest in school-based literacies. Have your students complete a short survey on their outside interests and use that information to build your lesson plans. This will help your students see the connections between what they’re learning inside and outside the classroom.

3.  Make Collaboration Work

Design engaged learning Courses
Design engaged learning Courses

After integrating student involvement in the course and with the instructor, the next phase increases collaboration between peers. Oftentimes, instructors feel that collaboration in an online environment is challenging or near impossible. However, through simple strategies, collaboration can be a seamless and beneficial approach to course design. 

One method is implementing Professional Learning Communities (PLC), which are groups of students who regularly collaborate through emails, discussion boards, video conferencing, group phone calls, etc., to work on issues or topics related to the content. Instructors can assign roles within the PLC to assist with the active participation of all students. Roles can include facilitator (serves as team leader and key contact to instructor), interpreter (re-teaches concepts),  reminder (reiterates assignment criteria and deadlines), and mentor (reviews peer work and offers professional critique before submission).  PLCs are useful for collaboration with authentic activities and assisting with peer scaffolding to support students who are reluctant to participate.

If instructors prefer to use group assignments not associated with PLCs, they should provide clearly defined expectations. Before starting the assignment, groups should determine who will handle what aspects of the assignment and indicate when each component will be completed.

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4.  Use specific everyday examples.

An easy way to help students feel personally connected to what they’re being taught is to talk about applying the material in real life. In Systematic Instruction for Students with Moderate and Severe Disabilities, Collins suggests teachers demonstrate how students can apply math concepts to help them manage their personal finances, nutrition, and daily schedule.

5. Develop a Clear, Consistent Structure

The course’s look can be intentionally inviting, intentionally disinviting, unintentionally inviting, or. Oftentimes instructors have a lot of information that needs to be crammed into the online learning environment, creating a disinviting learning environment. To create an intentionally inviting online environment, courses need to have a clear and consistent structure that offers intuitive navigation. Each module should have the same structure.  The location of reading materials, assignments, tasks, collaborative opportunities, etc., always should be in the same location and format. 

In addition, each module should look like the previous modules, with updated content and learning outcomes. When thinking about course design and usability for learners, an effective approach is to ensure all resources utilized throughout the course are contained within the LMS.

Design Engaged Learning Courses can play a huge role in usability and student success. One strategy for engaging learners is through microlearning, which is a trend in online learning.  Microlearning involves presenting content through mediated micro levels, so students are exposed to small learning units on short-term assignments.  Microlearning is based on H.A. Simon’s 1974 research that outlines the effectiveness of creating chunks of learning experiences that the short-term memory can retain. This approach translates into online course development through the use of learning modules.

Design Engaged Learning Courses

You can also promote learning through classroom routines. For instance, a child learning to wash hands during bathroom breaks can also be taught science concepts (body parts, hygiene and disease prevention, water conservation), reading (bathroom signage), antonyms (hot/cold, left/right), and math (counting).

7. Reflect and Revise

According to academic research and excellence in teaching narratives, a reflective practitioner is a successful practitioner. There are several strategies that instructors can use to practice reflective strategies to improve the learning environment for students. Successful instructional course design needs a performance evaluation process that has flexible guidelines. One evaluation framework is ADDIE, which has five phases that are the basis of content design: analyze, design, develop, implement and evaluate.  

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Conclusion of Design-Engaged Learning Courses


Reflective practitioners use the evaluation phase to review their courses through the lens of best practices. A few ways to reflect upon course designs are through student feedback and keeping a design journal of things during a semester.  Finally, course design rubrics, such as from Quality Matters, can assess course design according to research-based rubrics.

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