Designing Engaging and Effective Online Activities in Blended Learning Courses

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

What kinds of online activities do students find most engaging? Which do they find most effective? Graduate students were asked to rate each of the online activities on effectiveness and engagement in a blended (60(in-class)-40(online)) graduate seminar on teaching in order to inform the design of future blended learning courses.

Extended Abstract

Learning Goals

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  • identify the kinds of online activities that students found most engaging in a blended course
  • identify & discuss how these findings may help in the design and development of online activities in their own contexts

Presentation Format

The first part of the session will be an interactive discussion of the preliminary results of the study. The presenter will use an audience response system in addition to creating opportunities for participants to interact. Following this, participants will work in small groups to discuss how some of the findings may apply to their own contexts in teaching, course design or leadership.


The purpose of this research is to learn more about how best to design blended/hybrid courses, and in particular which kinds of online activities are most effective and engaging in a blended learning context.

Research Questions

Which kinds of online activities are more/less engaging in blended learning courses?

Which kinds of online activities are more/less effective in helping students achieve learning objectives?

The Graduate Seminar in University Teaching (GSUT) is an intensive 35-hour course offered several times a year by the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Concordia University. The purpose of the seminar is to prepare graduate students for an academic teaching career.

In 2016, as the Centre’s Teaching Consultant and the instructor of one of the sections, I decided to offer the GSUT as a blended course to decrease the number of hours spent in class each day from seven hours to four in order to make the learning experience more flexible for participants and to reduce the intensity. This was the first time this course had ever been offered in a blended format.


A paper-based student questionnaire was administered on the last day of the course to examine student perceptions of what is engaging and effective in blended learning. The questionnaire was divided into three sections.

The first section asked students general questions and preferences about online learning. It also included some questions realted to the amount and quality of interactions, and about opportunities for learning, reflection and feedback. The second section listed each online activity in each module and asked students to rate each of them on 1) how well it helped them achieve the learning outcomes 2) how well it helped them achieve deeper learning on the topic 3) how engaging it was, and 4) how valuable it was.  The third section of the questionnaire focused on the course as a whole. Questions related to navigation, expectations and instructions, availability of materials, instructor presence, and technical quality of media.

The questionnaires were collected and analyzed, and some of the most significant data will be discussed.


As of May 2017, only one section with 19 responses has been used as part of the research. However, another set of data will be collected in October 2017, so that more data will be included in a November discussion. What follows is the initial data based on one section of the course.

The activities that were rated as most engaging and had the highest overall score were all activities that required students to collaborate or to share insights with each other. These were primarily in the form of a discussion forum although other tools were used. The activities that received the lowest overall scores were passive activities such as videos and readings.

A more in-depth review of the results will be presented that will show exactly which activities scored highest and those which lowest. Participants will then be invited to discuss how these findings may help in the design and development of online activities in their own contexts.