Pushing Past the Threshold: A Modern Day Twist to Enriching Online Students

Streamed Session

Brief Abstract

Educators often focus their attention towards supporting struggling students; while important, it is equally important to enrich meeting and excelling students. So, how do you enrich students in the online modality? Grouping! Join us on exploring how using grouping in the discussion forums can enhance student learning.

Sponsored By


My name is Beverly Santelli and I am an Online Full Time Faculty at Grand Canyon University. I have taught within higher education for eight years. My areas of teaching include Critical Thinking, Information and Communication Literacy as well as General and Social Psychology. Research interests include instructor presence, technology integration and student-centered teaching practices. I have a Master's In Industrial and Organizational Psychology as well as Master's in Education in Curriculum and Instruction: Technology.

Additional Authors

Sheila Damiani completed her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Arizona State University and her Masters of Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. Sheila is currently pursuing her Ed.D in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Higher Education. Sheila has 11 years of experience in education. She started her career in education beginning in K-6 and moved to Grand Canyon University in August of 2012. She began her career at Grand Canyon University as a Fulltime Online Faculty Member and has since moved to the position of Faculty Chair for Online Fulltime Faculty. Sheila also is an adjunct instructor for GCU online.

Extended Abstract

In an effort to support students, educators systematically follow the teaching strategy of grouping. Often times, seen in the K-12 setting, educator’s group students so they can work to improve high-level reasoning and critical thinking skills. In addition, it provides opportunities for students to gain a deeper understanding of the learned material. The purpose of this presentation is to offer guidance, support and a strategy to enriching excelling students, at the college level, in online programs.

Historically, primary and secondary educators have used enrichment strategies in their traditional classrooms geared for exceptional students. So, why stop in the K-12 setting? Why stop in the traditional ground setting? As online educators, we often overlook high achieving students, as the focus falls on retaining at risk online students. There are several different ways that online educators can challenge high achieving students; this presentation will focus on ability grouping. The National Association for Gifted Children has indicated that ability grouping, when used properly, allows flexibility for students and also helps to promote high levels of achievement while shrinking excellence gaps. Furthermore, this strategy has been shown to challenge students by allowing them to work alongside others who learn at similar rates and share similar goals (“Grouping.” n.d.).

Simply put…we put a new twist on an old teaching and learning practice. Grouping online college students, in conversation, in the main forum has allowed us to drive a deeper understanding of the learning objectives. DeNisco (2015) discusses that through ability- grouped peer conversations, students are challenged to achieve higher level thinking skills. Through grouping, students have a chance to engage in discussions that can enhance their motivation to persist through a course, thus achieving higher academic output.

 Presenters will share background knowledge around teaching in the online discussion forum and how they enrich exceeding students through grouping. Presenters will provide participants with samples of real life experiences with online grouping.  Audience members will be engaged through a number of techniques including interactive question and answering, and audience contributions. Presenters will encourage open dialog and discussion between themselves and the audience as it relates to the potential benefits and consequences of grouping. From this presentation, participants will be able to use grouping in online classes to support student engagement and critical thinking. Participants will be able to apply grouping strategies into their own online classes based on the presenters’ experiences.