Five Strategies to Improve Student Engagement in Online Learning

Students engaged in content on laptop

With an average attention span of more or less eight minutes, it can be very challenging for students to stay engaged in online learning. Social media, texting, YouTube, and Netflix are all distractions that make it difficult for students to stay focused. Fortunately, there are strategies that you can use to keep learners on the edge of their seats.

Merriam-Webster defines engagement as
“the act of engaging: the state of being engaged, which, in turn, is defined as being greatly interested.”

Keep it short

  • Creating bite-sized chunks of content will make it easier for students to absorb and remember information.
  • These nuggets of content can build on one another to complete a concept or chapter, and by delivering the content in different formats, your learners will remain interested and engaged.
  • Keeping content short and changing the formats will reduce the opportunity for students to engage in negative multitasking, such as checking texts while watching a video.

Group work

  • Get the students to apply what they have learned; this will help them to bridge the knowing to doing gap. You can do this by assigning group tasks to the students.
  • A group task will get the students to discuss the topic with fellow students online or offline, apply the knowledge learned, and increase student engagement.

Guide the students on how they can meet up by suggesting conferencing tools such as Microsoft Teams, setting up discussion time beforehand, and sharing the link with the students. If the discussion time is set up in advance, you can join the session and show personal interest.


Why is recognition important, and how will it enable student engagement?
  • Recognition boosts students’ self-esteem by giving them a sense of pride and belonging, motivating them to participate and achieve the expected outcome.
  • A rewards system like badging, where students receive icons or badges when they complete a task or for different achievements, is popular among students and educators.

Construct Education uses a badge system internally for different learning paths designed for various roles within Construct. These badges are both a reward for completing the course and create opportunities for staff to apply for more senior positions.


Make student engagement fun

  • Build fun activities into the course.
  • Activities need to be purposeful and support learning. There is a greater likelihood that the student will remember the exercises that were part of the course rather than the presented slideshow.
  • An example of a fun and engaging learning activity is asking students to create a meme to explain concepts covered in the course.

Provide regular feedback

Students need to know that what they are doing is right and that they have support to course-correct. Feedback gives the student a sense of reassurance because they know they are progressing through the learning with support. 

In addition, your feedback should be personal and not leave room for misinterpretation. You can achieve this by using a discussion forum or providing video feedback. Your conversation with a student should include opportunities and areas of improvement and praise for work well done. This approach will set the student up for success. 

With online learning, the design of the learning material needs to hold the student’s attention so they can focus on the learning taking place. At Construct, we design courses so that they become the distraction the student wants to focus on, not social media.

In conclusion, remember to retain student engagement, keep it short, allow the learners to have fun, be present, and provide regular feedback.

Estelle Van Eeden

Estelle Eeden

Image of students sitting at a laptop by pch.vector on Freepik

Image of a woman participating in an online meeting by DCStudio on Freepik

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