Tuesday 8 November 2011

10 Tools for Increasing Engagement in Online Courses

Over the last few years I've done a lot of work developing writing and redeveloping online courses and course materials. In the initial rush to get learning online many organisations got themselves a Moodle platform and then attached a whole load of PDFs and .docs, added some forums and the odd video clip and called it an online course. It's no surprise then that drop out rates for online learning courses have been so high.

The advent of Web 2.0 though, brought a whole bunch of new tools that course designers could take advantage of to make content more social, interactive and engaging.

Here are some of the tools I've been using recently to embed a bit more interactivity into the courses I work on.

Storify - http://storify.com

Storify is a great tool for collecting together  a mixture of web based resources and references into a web based widget that you can then structure into a digital research paper. You can easily pull in comments from Facebook, Twitter or Google searches as well as a range of other social media sources. You then add blocks with your own commentary and reflections. The whole thing can then be embedded into a webpage. This is a great tool for developing digital literacy and referencing online sources.

Tricider - http://tricider.com

Tricider is a great tool for crowd sourcing opinion. You start with a single question problem and then you or your students can add possible solutions to the problem. Students can also add some pros and cons to the solutions and vote on the ones they prefer. These can be embedded into webpages and can give far more structure to online discussion than things like threaded forums which often become garbled and confusing.

Urtak - https://urtak.com

You can use Urtak to create simple social questionnaires for your courses. Although the responses are quite limited (Yes / No / Don't care) This can still be a useful tool for quick straw polls before developing deeper discussion through a forum. It also give students the chance to compare their opinions anonymously with those of classmates and also add their own questions to the questionnaire. The questionnaires can also be embedded into web pages and materials.

- http://intervue.me

This is also a tool for creating questionnaires, but in the case of Intervue.me the questions can be open ended and the respondent leaves their answer verbally using a web cam. Intervue.me can't be embedded into pages , but you can link to your questionnaires and you can download the video clips of the answers as mp4 so you can then use these in materials you develop and as the basis for further discussion.

VYou - http://vyou.com/

You can use Vyou embed a video booth that students can go at any time of day to ask you questions. The video booth gives the impression that you are always available and builds some presence on your course. The messages students send you are delivered to an inbox and you are notified so that you can answer them. Vyou also has a very handy mobile app so you can answer the questions where ever you are on your iPhone or other mobile device.

Keek - http://www.keek.com/

It's a good idea to get students to keep a learning journal on any course they do. It can feel a bit dull though writing journal entries to yourself, so why not get student to create a video based learning journal using Keek. They can add entries each day just using a web cam and microphone and you can leave video comments on their entries. Students on your course can also be encouraged to 'follow' each other. Individual entries can also be embedded into web pages which can enable you to build pages that share insights from your course participants. Keek also has a free mobile app that allows you to up date from mobile devices such as iPhone.

Bundlr - http://gobundlr.com/

This is a really useful tool for sharing theme based collections of bookmarks. It creates a very visual record of the book marked links which you can then embed into your course pages as widgets. This can be a really useful tool for setting research tasks based around a group of online resources.

Zooshia - http://zooshia.com/

Zooshia is a handy tool for creating widgets from social network sources that can be embedded into web pages. The widgets show a dynamic stream from whatever source we select. This can make suggestions for twitter or facebook people to follow much more informative and can also allow you to embed dynamic widgets from YouTube channels which will make your content much more dynamic too.

Present.Me - http://present.me/

Present.Me  can help you create online presentations from your PowerPoint slides. You can then add your talking head commentary to your slides and embed the whole thing into your online course. This works well as a lecture replacement and having a presenter that you can actually see along side your slides can help add to the engagement with your learners. You can embed this into your page and build a forum around it for follow up discussion.

Goanimate - http://goanimate.com

Online course content can become very dry and serious, so why not spice it up by creating a few animations using something like GoAnimate. It's a an easy tool for creating short animated dialogues that can be exported as video clips and embedded into your course. You can use these to introduce topics or raise issues for further debate.

I hope these ten tools and the links from them have given you a few ideas into how you can spice up your online courses and make them more engaging and enjoyable and help you to retain students. Please leave a comment if you have suggestions for other free tools you have found useful for developing online content.

Related links:


Nik Peachey


Ally said...

Thanks so much! I will check out two of them; I have started using edmodo.com for an online reading group and it goes just fine!

Mercedes Viola said...

Thank you very much!!! As usual, very useful.

Carolina Lapointe said...

Hi Nik, I have a question here. You say that with Web 2.0 tools we can make content more social, interactive and engaging. Could you please tell me what you mean when you say "make content more social"?

Anonymous said...

very rich post thnx so much

kumudrao said...

Very useful suggestion of tools that will make content developing / sharing very interesting. I already explored Zooshia and even blogged about it.

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Carolina

I believe the content becomes more socially interactive when it encourages and enables users to engage discussion about / through it and in a sense the discussion becomes part of the content you create. Tricider is a good example of this.



Unknown said...

Thank you, excellent information! I just started thinking of compiling several information formats into an online course. I've tried moodle, but realized it doesn't really work for freelancers like me. So I've been trying to use odijoo as a platform where I can use videos, docs, and forums.... Do you have another website where you can put everything together in one place? Let's say I would need lectures, videos, documents, blogs for students and forums?

Nik Peachey said...

Hi OnlineEnglish Instructor,

You can do all of this with Wiggio.com or try http://www.palabea.com



Unknown said...

Thank you. Wiggio looks great. Palabea was a bit slow, so I don't know what the deal is. I hope I'll get it to work, too. Lena

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Lena

I have heard that Palabea has a lot of new funding and will be completely relaunched soon, so it could be worth keeping an eye on.



Maria Persson said...

Amazing amount of work you have done here Nik! I especially appreciate the pedagogical stand you take when explaining the usefulness of the tools...the learning outcomes need to be facilitated by the tools and not the other way around!

Sue Swift said...

Nik - love all these and will definitely be looking into VYou. However, just a thought - isn't it possible that online courses can get too spiced up? Some of my trainees have sometimes commented that there is so much to do on our (teacher development) site that it's easy to avoid the "real" work. I'd argue that it's all real work - but I do understand what they mean.

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Sue

It depends what you mean by 'real work' and 'spiced up'. For me the 'real work' is about social interaction and reflection on content. Being able to challenge the content and having your own views and opinions challenged. This is where the 'real learning' takes place. Learning isn't just a process of reading the right articles that have been passed down to you as being the sources of authority. Learners in the digital age need to challenge sources and be confronted by a range of views and have the ability to make intelligent decisions about what is right within their context and these are the kinds of tools that can enable that dialogue and interaction with and around our collective ELT literature.



Ora said...

Thank you, Nik! So much information for online tools. This post can keep me busy for a month!

Anne Hodgson said...

Thanks for introducing me to Tricider a while back - that is just much better than giving them a "choice" in Moodle and linking from that to the forum for discussion. The web tools are visually more inviting, and of course it's great when outsiders add their comments.
I'm going to try out VYou for the first time with a class and am very curious whether the students will decide to use it!
Thanks again.

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Anne

I'm glad you like Tricider. It just keeps getting better too (now you can add images). With VYou, I think you really have to lead from the front. Good luck.


Unknown said...

Very insightful article. Tools listed will definitely increase interaction and improve learning experience. I'm keeping my eye on urtak

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