Engaging Online Authentically: Acting on What We Know from Other Disciplines

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

Based on research and established best practices, collected from cross disciplines, this workshop provides an explanation of pathways that complete a circuit for interaction fostering a deeper level of engagement, empowerment, connectivity and collaboration within the online classroom dynamic.


Carrie Bailey, a University of California Regents Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa member, graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a master's degree in English. She has taught online college courses since 2006. Currently, she is a Full-time Faculty member at University of Phoenix . Her forte is blending humanities content with educational technology--- with a focus on engagement and student retention. Her latest creative projects include a book on parenting adult children and a novel that includes accompanying fragrances. Grounded: she is a Taurus and was born in the year of the boar.
Susan Wimberly Honea has taught English composition, business writing, and technical communications courses since 2008 and is now a Full-Time Faculty member at University of Phoenix. She holds a BA in English, a BS in Health Sciences, an MA in Professional Writing, and a Master of Public Health. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Susan consults in the area of training management, design, and delivery and edits dissertations and articles for publication. Susan has a background in corporate training and instructional design, and her educational focus is curriculum development with particular interest in using educational technology to improve learner outcomes.
Erin Nemiroff has taught English composition and literature since 2004, both at the high school and undergraduate levels before becoming a Full-Time Faculty member with University of Phoenix. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English and is a certified Teacher of English in the state of New Jersey. Erin remains active in the childhood education field through extensive volunteer work in her community’s schools and organizations. Her educational focus is the simplification and bridging of course materials so as to maximize their accessibility by students of all backgrounds and ability levels. She has experience in curriculum development, project leadership, and standardized test preparation.

Additional Authors

As a Student Success Specialist, I work to build systems that support the development of community and a dynamic academic culture online and in blended environments by supporting faculty and building bridges between organizational and student needs.

Extended Abstract

The word, “engagement,” buzzes through the discourse of online instruction with a steady push for more discussion postings, more feedback, more points of contact in a frenzy of activity without a clear sense of the qualities that distinguish authentic engagement from classroom white noise. The current conception of engagement fails to distinguish higher frequency from higher impact activities. Holding a nuanced definition of engagement, gives educators power to control this concept in a way that transforms engagement from mere counting toward authentic, transformative interaction.  Current definitions, such as that of the NSSE (2016), focus on engagement as a product, with the focus on diagnostics and assessment. However, describing constructive qualities of engagement benefits online instructors with a process-based definition to build interactivity and presence in unique contexts.

To develop a definition, we apply relevant research and influential practices, constructing a multidimensional understanding of what it means to engage with students, materials, and within learning communities online. While the rate of enrollment in online courses has increased in proportion to traditional courses alone, the risk of being disengaged through the impersonal nature of technology is ever-present in online courses (Allen & Seaman, 2016). Because many structural aspects of social media are similar to online learning systems, it follows that the way individuals engage in social media shares behavioral, cognitive and emotional dimensions. There is a rich tradition of drawing from interdisciplinary theory, methods, and research in the service of understanding what it means to teach and learn online. Exploring engagement beyond individual disciplinary borders through concepts as diverse as organizational learning from business, mindset strategies from psychology, and institutional pathway practices from health care brings a confluence of strategies that bring to light the nature of engagement. In essence, our workshop offers a development model to promote assuring quality engagement in online courses, based on research and established best practices collected from cross disciplines and dimensions as well as sub-processes by providing an explanation of possible applications to better know the elements of engagement.

Based on research and established best practices, collected from cross disciplines, we seek to provide an explanation of pathways to form a circuit for interaction that fosters a deeper level of engagement, empowerment, connectivity and collaboration within the online classroom dynamic.

Through modeled collaboration, attendees will:

·       Develop a functional definition of engagement

·       Develop a plan to cultivate engagement in their unique contexts

·       Implement high impact practices

·       Tap into an authentic instructional voice in their online classroom