Engaging the Online Classroom

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Online classes are often a necessity for our students at some point in their college careers. What strategies can we use to help our online classes live up to their potential: helping students engage the material and learn in a deliberate, interactive way that expands their engagement with our disciplines?


Dr. Dana Whippo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at Dickinson State University. She began working at DSU in 2012, and teaches Political Science, Economics, and in the Honors Leadership Program. She earned her PhD in Political Science from Indiana University, and she has her MS degree in Economics from Baylor University. Dr. Whippo actively participates in regional and national conferences, presenting discipline-based research as well as pedagogical strategies. She is an active proponent of the use of open educational resources, and has incorporated them into her teaching. Dr. Whippo has received funding to support the incorporation of new online learning resources into both face-to-face and online classes. Her current research addresses framing and public policy, and the relationship between economic booms and pre-existing industry. Dr. Whippo has served on her local Head Start Policy Council, and is a new board member for the Friends of the Library.

Extended Abstract


Online classes offer tremendous potential: ideally combining the flexibility that our students increasingly require with an engaging, interactive learning environment. Balancing these objectives becomes easier when we develop strategies that are also applicable in our face-to-face classes. This challenge of balance is the focus of this session. This session builds on experience teaching both in-person and online.


  • Identify and describe the difficulties we face when preparing for an online course as well as during the teaching itself
  • Explore a series of ideas on how to improve our online teaching, taking time to question, explore, and refine
  • Build on our collective experiences to address the concerns we face in teaching online classes: share strategies that have been successful, brainstorm ideas, propose modifications


How can faculty members improve our online teaching so that it lives up to our expectations as well as its inherent potential?

Engaging Questions

  • What were your first responses when you first considered teaching online?
  • In what ways has teaching online lived up to your best expectations?
  • In what ways has teaching online fallen short of what you wanted or planned for?
  • What are examples of your online activities or assignments that have been most successful?
  • What are examples of online activities or assignments that you would most like to revise? What happened with the assignment that you feel it needs revision?
  • What are examples of your most successful assignments when you teach an in-person class?
  • How can we adapt those exemplars to online learning?

Strategies for Engagement

The conversation will begin by recognizing our shared experiences with teaching online and identifying the shared successes as well as difficulty. Areas of common success provide us some insight into what works well; areas of shared difficult will define where we spend most of our time.

In response to shared difficulties, we will look for examples of how we have successfully handled those difficulties in both online and face-to-face classes. As we consider strategies already used online, we will analyze their applicability to different classes and situations. Exemplars from face-to-face classes provide an opportunity for the group to evaluate how those activities or strategies might be modified for use in online classes.

The conversation may offer the opportunity to break into small groups to discuss specific assignments that participants would like to revise. Short periods of small group discussion provide the opportunity for participants to brainstorm potential modifications in order to provide immediate and tangible conversation outcomes.

Participant Learning Outcomes

After fully engaging in our conversation on engaging the online classroom, participants will be able to:

  • Identify and describe common challenges facing faculty who teach online
  • Consider how we can modify exemplary in-person activities or assignments for use in online classes
  • Develop examples, ideas, and strategies for use in future online classes
  • Evaluate current assignments in online classes as to how they might be revised for better outcomes