A great deal of research supports the notion that student engagement is correlated with student success. But it's not always easy to gauge an online learner's level of engagement because some students may be engaged in the course without posting much to the discussion board.
A recent study by Angelique Hamane and Farzin Madjidi, both of Pepperdine University, indicates that the frequency of students' visits to the discussion board—not necessarily of their posting to it—is correlated with student success.
In an interview with Distance Education Report (Online Classroom's sibling publication), Hamane offered the following recommendations based on this finding:
- Encourage students to spend time on the discussion board. Hamane offered the following ways to do this: write exam questions that send students to the discussion board to find information that will help them answer these questions effectively; use higher-order discussion prompts that require more than a yes/no response.
- Monitor student log-ins to the discussion board. “If students say they are having a hard time, I immediately look at reports to see who logs in [to discussions],” Hamane says.
- Understand that student engagement is not always visible. “There are students who are actually engaged, but we can't see it,” Hamane says. However, she adds, just because some students engage in the course in ways that aren't always apparent does not mean the instructor should avoid discussion board participation requirements.
Lorenzetti, Jennifer Patterson. (2014). The perks of being a wallflower. Distance Education Report (18)12, 1-2.