Defining Engagement – What does it mean? What is enough?

Concurrent Session 5

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Brief Abstract

Is social presence enough to define engagement in an online classroom? This presentation will address research findings of instructors who have used multimedia for announcements and discussions to engage students and then, open a discussion among participants of what defines real engagement.


Dr. Julie Bonner is an Associate Faculty member at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA. Dr. Bonner is the program coordinator for the graduate program in the Information Technology and Administrative Management department. She has been at the University three years and is very interesting in student development, course design, and how students learn.
Laura Portolese currently teaches in the Information Technology and Administrative Management Department of Central Washington University. Her vast experience in online teaching and flipped classrooms spans nearly 20 years. Laura's research interests lie in the areas of student engagement in online courses. In addition, Laura has written several textbooks for publishers such as McGraw-Hill and Flat World Knowledge on Human Resource Management, Human Relations, and several others. When not teaching, researching or writing, you might find Laura on the roller derby track, playing for her local team in Ellensburg, Washington.

Additional Authors

Jackie Krause, Ph.D. Jackie Krause is an assistant professor for Central Washington University in the Information Technology and Applied Management program. Jackie has over eighteen years of experience in adult education, at both the community college and university level teaching courses both face-to-face and online. Fascinated with engaging online students in non-traditional methods, Jackie pursued a Masters in educational technology from Pepperdine University. She enjoys looking for ways to implement social networking technologies in both the classroom and enterprise. As a result, her dissertation topic addressed the perceptions and intentions of employees to use social networking within the enterprise. As an educator, Jackie enjoys trying new techniques as means of reaching students on every level.

Extended Abstract

Defining Engagement – What does it mean? What is enough?

Is social presence enough to define engagement in an online classroom?

This interactive presentation will present the findings of instructors who have used multimedia in online classrooms for announcements and discussions to engage students. The faculty presenters have measured student’s perceptions of the use multimedia for both announcements and discussion posts. While students feel more “connected” to faculty and other students who use multimedia, they are unlikely to use these tools themselves. Students admit that they have watched these messages frequently and enjoy when their instructors use voice or web cameras to deliver announcements and discussions. So why is it that they are unlikely to engage in the same behavior, even when the tools are built-in to the classroom, the tools are easy to use, and clear instructions have been provided?

As a result of the findings from this study, the presenters have begun to question how we define and measure engagement. Are students engaging simply by viewing content or are there levels of engagement that require participation? Does this matter? Expect a lively discussion that will begin by with a short presentation of our research findings, including the theoretical perspectives related to the use of multimedia in the online classroom, followed by a deep Q & A session meant to uncover the anecdotal experiences of the participants that will help frame how we think of engagement in online classes.

After this presentation, participants will be able to identify ways of incorporating multimedia (voice or web) into their announcements and discussions, clearly state the benefits proposition, and possible have some new perspectives of what it means to engage online students.