Facilitation strategies for enhancing the learning and engagement of online students
Muir, TA and Douglas, T and Trimble, AJ, Facilitation strategies for enhancing the learning and engagement of online students, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 17, (3) Article 8. ISSN 1449-9789 (2020) [Refereed Article]
The opening up of online education in the Australian tertiary sector has made higher education accessible for a wide range of students, including those living in rural and regional areas. While student numbers continue to grow as a result of this opportunity, there are increasing concerns regarding low student retention and progression rates for online students in comparison with on-campus students. Reasons for this vary, however, online students report a sense of isolation and disconnection with their studies highlighting the need for educators to utilise effective facilitation to enhance student connections to an online community. In this paper, we investigated facilitation strategies using two case studies. This illustrated how two online instructors used design-based research to evaluate the impact of facilitation strategies on instructor presence, instructor connection, engagement and learning in maths education and human biology subjects. Findings indicate that focusing on social, managerial and technical facilitation strategies resulted in an increased instructor presence and active involvement, which in turn were influential in motivating students to engage with learning online. The findings have implications for higher education providers and instructors who are tasked with engaging online students. This identifies the importance of targeted online facilitation to enhance learner-instructor and learner-content engagement.