Students engaged working together on computer
Inside the Classroom

5 Tips to Engage Online Learners

After attending the iNACOL conference last month, I have a renewed passion for teaching students in an online or blended learning environment.  The message I walked away with is that ANY student can learn, and when we use technology and online learning tools, we can increase student success and confidence.

Online learning has redefined education for many students across the county.  It forms a partnership between students and teachers in a way that is new and refreshing. Students have more ownership over their learning and a larger claim on their successes. The key as an educator is to engage them and show them that they can succeed.

Here are five pointers on how to motivate and engage students in an online learning environment.

1) Make instruction fun.

Play games, be creative, and have a good time! A little friendly competition is good in an online setting. For example, you could create a competition where the teacher who has the most student progress in a week has to show up to school (or record themselves) dressed up like a clown.

2) Create a safe environment.

The online learning environment helps students feel safe when asking questions, since they don’t have to do it in front of a whole class. Anonymous polls during live sessions and break out chat rooms provide introverted students with more confidence to “speak” up.

3) Highlight students.

Live sessions and class newsletters are a good time to highlight student work. If you have students who have never met each other, give five minutes at the end of a classroom meeting for a student to showcase themselves.

4) Parents are the key!

Including parents in key communications through emails, calls, or within the online platform can increase student success and assist them in being more involved in their child’s learning.

5) Create a school environment.

Many homebound students do not get the opportunities that exist in a brick and mortar school. Don’t be afraid to organize field trips, clubs, volunteer activities, and socials that can help students feel a part of something bigger.

These are just a few tips on how to help students engage in online learning. There are many other strategies and good practices that are being shared by online educators who are seeking student success. When students feel engaged and safe in their learning environment they feel more control over their own education, and true learning takes flight.

About the Author


Shanna Barker

Shanna has been teaching for Edgenuity since the fall of 2011. She lives on a cattle ranch in Southern Utah with her husband and daughter. In addition to teaching and traveling, her interests include community service, theater, and writing historical fiction for youth.