Online Teaching Tuesdays: Interesting Online Assignments to Engage Online Students

Got Wi-Fi? Online Teaching Tuesday is a series of resources for teachers who want to transfer their skills to an online classroom setting. Whether you’re interested in full-time or part-time online teaching, explore this rapidly growing field with us every week!

Online education is a fast-growing industry worldwide, with over 6.7 million students enrolled in at least one course in 2011. More recent U.S. statistics provided that 5.8 million people were learning online last year, which means that the international number grew to at least 10 million.

This increasing number of online students suggests an important shift in the higher education landscape, where more and more people choosing to learn using this option. In turn, the educators are faced with a number of challenges with online students due to a lack of traditional interaction, such as creating effective and engaging assignments. As the result, it might be more difficult for them to engage these students because they do not meet with them regularly.

There are some innovative techniques that online educators can use to accomplish this task, though. Let’s discuss them below.

Assignment #1: The Interview

Have a discussion with your students about the people who inspire them. The results of this discussion will provide the instructions for the interview assignment, which will have them constructing an interview with the people they choose. The interviews can be tied to specific subjects, such as history, sociology, biology, and many others.

If you have the control over the course of the interview, provide specific topics for discussion. By using this assignment, you could evaluate critical thinking of the students, awareness about the topic, and allow them to use the interviewer they wish.

Assignment #2: All About Me

You can use this assignment to increase the student engagement right from the beginning of the school year. Ask the students to produce a short video about themselves where they could tell the other students and you about interests and benefits expected from the course. Also, you should encourage them to share information about the future goals and aspirations, job history, family, and previous education.

These projects will help to create more engagement and create the feeling of the community in the virtual classroom.

Assignment#3: Two Lies and a Truth

This assignment is actually a variation of All about Me task described above. This time, you should ask your students to provide three statements in their video introductions: one of which should be true and the other two should be lies. These statements should involve some facts from the background of students that are unknown to others students.

Inform about this and ask to guess which statements are true and which are lies. This assignment generally leads to a lively and interesting conversation because it is always great to trick the classmates and try to guess which is true and which is false.

Assignment #4: Picture

You know what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. This saying perfectly illustrates the essence of this assignment. Instruct your students to take a picture themselves and describe it in the way that blends into the recent discussions you had in the class. Also, you can specifically instruct to use some theories and other concepts in order to evaluate the skills of using them.

This assignment is popular among those who learn philosophy because it allows them to speculate of their perceptions of reality.

Assignment #5: One-Minute Paper

This is a widely popular assignment that challenges the students to complete a difficult task within a short period of time. It is generally used at the end of the class but you can use it at the end of discussions as well. Ask your students to write a short paper on what they learned during the class or discussion or some points that they found the most interesting and significant. However, you can extend it a little bit if you feel it is necessary and make it a 5-minute paper. You can find sample form and other instructions about making this assignment here.

Assignment #6: Peer Feedback

One of the most important real benefits of online assignments is instant feedback from multiple classmates that can be saved and reviewed. This benefit should be used to develop the skills of constructive criticism and proper feedback in the students. Have them complete a written assignment and read the works of each other to provide the feedback later. This way, the students can have the opportunity to engage in a discussion of their works.

Need more help on this task? Here is the sample peer assignment example for you.

Construct these assignments clearly to prevent the conversations and discussion from going flat. Eventually, they will help you to improve the engagement of online students by providing a new portion of lively discussions and fascinating tasks.

Diana Clark is a high-school educator with 5 years successful working experience in digital and blended learning, modeling effective professional learning and enhancing teacher leadership. She is covering different topics concerning higher education, educational technology, and career development. Feel free to contact her at Facebook.