A Bridge to Success: Connecting Student Engagement to Student Motivation Through Educational Technology and Instructional Strategies in the Online Learning Environment

Concurrent Session 2
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Brief Abstract

Student engagement and student motivation are subjective buzz phrases in higher education, leaving faculty and instructional designers guessing how their course is reaching each learner.   Explore how instructional strategies and educational technology, intended to foster student engagement in the online environment, may be received based on the learner’s goal orientation.

Sponsored By


Kristen Walley has over 15 years’ experience working with children, families, and educators across multiple public and private programs. Kristen currently supports beginning and continuing early childhood education professionals through higher education as an Assistant Professor for the School of Education with Rasmussen College in Illinois. Her work includes adult training and education, curriculum and program development including competency-based education, and curriculum alignment to state and national standards. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Curriculum Leadership with a focus on learner motivation in various educational formats and settings. Kristen is passionate about recognizing the investment of educators who support our earliest learners through developmentally appropriate practice while motivating all students to invest in themselves as life-long learners.
Julie Lawrence serves as the Academic Dean for two campuses of Rasmussen College in the Chicagoland area. Julie began her career in early childhood education but soon realized a passion for leadership and lifelong learning. As the Academic Dean, she works with faculty and students in traditional and online education environments, certificate, associates, and bachelor level programs, and a variety of programs including early childhood education, health sciences, criminal justice, business, technology and design. She is passionate about faculty development and identifying ways to support student success. Julie is a doctoral candidate specializing in leadership and online education with a working dissertation exploring educational technology and online discussion forums.

Extended Abstract

Innovative faculty and course designers seek opportunities to embed educational technology into the online classroom to foster learner engagement But what is student engagement and is this term subjective to faculty and students?

We begin by exploring perceptions of engagement; what does engagement mean?  Is active engagement in an online course essential to student mastery? Can students or participants demonstrate competence in isolation?  Do personal perceptions of what engagement is and what it looks like in online learning influence the selection and use of educational technology? 

Online learning platforms can create opportunities for students to engage with content and peers to demonstrate mastery of competencies.  When opportunities align with the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework, student engagement is presumed to be influenced by the social presence, instructor presence, and cognitive presence to construct knowledge through a variety of experiences (Garrison, 2017).  Several aspects of course design and the facilitation of online learning focus on the CoI framework but may fail to address the student’s goal orientation.  If the student is not motivated to use educational technology, is it effective?


Goal achievement research suggests students might develop approach goals; desirable outcomes such as gaining new knowledge, approval, or appearing competent or avoidance goals; avoiding failure of a course or appearing incompetent (Elliot, 1999, Nicholls, 1984).   It is widely accepted motivation is contextual, and learner motivation can change over the course of a program or single class (Duncan, & McKeachie, 2005, Nicholls, 1984).  This makes matching the educational technology to the course competencies and the student’s goal orientation a daunting task. In this session, explore how the constructs of the CoI framework and choice of educational technology in the online environment may influence learner achievement goals.   

Course competencies and goals identify content-specific objectives, though the act of engagement provides participants the opportunity to demonstrate this competence.  This presentation explores the value of engagement through a CoI and the balance needed for individual motivation to mastery of course competencies.

Throughout the 30 minute presentation, participants will engage with the various educational technology their students might encounter in the online classroom such as leaderboards, bulletin boards, polls, video, and widgets. While exploring each technology tool through the Community of Inquiry framework, participants will also record their own goal orientation. Participants will investigate if different educational technology tools stimulate a different goal orientation and how they might match the tool with a learner or course.     Next, participants will spend 5 minutes in individual reflection before rejoining the group for a 10 minute Q&A.  The Q&A will be structured with several mini-tour questions to elicit the participant’s verbal response and experiences.    Participants can also elect to collaborate through the use of the online bulletin board to allow the conversation to continue after the session has ended.

Participants will take away strategies on selecting technology tools to foster learner engagement throughout areas of the online platform, with a focus on ensuring the tools are varied to support students with differing goal orientations. 

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

·       Recommend embedded educational technology based on varying goal orientation.

·       Determine opportunities in online courses to elicit engagement using educational technology

·       Select educational technology to build a community of learners in online courses

List of Provided Materials for Attendees: PowerPoint Slide and handouts.  All material will be available in digital format.  


Duncan, T. G., & McKeachie, W. J. (2005). The making of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire. Educational Psychologist40(2), 117-128.           doi:10.1207/s15326985ep4002_6

Elliot, A. J. (1999). Approach and avoidance motivation and achievement goals. Educational Psychologist34(3), 169-189. doi:10.1207/s15326985ep3403_3

Garrison, D. (2017). E-learning in the 21st century. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Routledge.

Nicholls, J. G. (1984). Achievement motivation: Conceptions of ability, subjective experience, task choice, and performance. Psychological Review, 91(3), 328-346.