We are currently using the following five methods for promoting student learning, engagement, and cooperation within the context of three online psychology courses for college students (see details below):


  1. Self-forming weekly collaborative task teams (engagement through initiative, communication, and interaction)
  2. Online discussions of book chapter reviews (engagement through collective knowledge and expressions of shared attitudes and sentiments)
  3. Team research reports (engagement through peer involvement and joint responsibility)
  4. Role play interactions online (engagement through social and emotional learning in action)
  5. Self-maintained online records in a class shared spreadsheet (engagement through responsibility and accountability)


Details on Method 1. Collaborative Task Teams

Teams meet online at weekly pre-arranged times of their choice. The team members go through a list of required activities and interactions that are posted ahead of time and for which they prepare as instructed. Activities include:

  • Doing research on a specified topic and taking turns presenting them to the group.
  • Researching a particular scientist or person in the news and being interviewed by the others at the meeting.
  • Forming two sub-teams and debating two sides of a specified controversial issue.
  • Engaging in role-playing interactions of various types as specified in the weekly instructions. For example: mother-daughter discussion on dating; imitating counselor-patient interactions; pretending to be an aggressive driver and expressing compatible attitudes in a discussion; etc.
  • Learning and practicing meeting with each other in a virtual world environment (e.g., Second Life) and carrying out various activities specified in the weekly instructions (e.g., shopping for and using inventory items such as clothes, avatars, vehicles, etc.). After several weeks of practice the team puts up an exhibit (e.g., cars and airplanes) or performs an event (e.g., wedding, court trial case).

After the online meeting each team member writes and posts an individual “lab report” that gives details of the activities and comments on them. Students from all teams can thus read each other’s weekly lab reports, including the instructor, and they can post comments or reactions. Since all teams go through the same weekly activities, students can identify with each other’s Lab Report content and appreciate how another team has carried out these activities and what problems they ran into. Replies or comments to Lab Reports often express sympathy for things that went wrong or appreciation when problems were solved adequately. Often solutions are shared and advice is offered.


Details on Method 2. Online Discussions

Online discussions of book chapter reviews produces interactions that promote engagement and group cohesion through collective knowledge and expressions of shared attitudes and sentiments.


Details on Method 3. Team Research Reports

Submitting the first of the required Team Research Reports involves the students online in creating an annotated bibliography in which different sources are cited for the assigned topics, and a variety of search procedures are to be used. After planning discussions, team members take responsibility for preparing an agreed upon sub-section and subsequently comment on each other’s drafts posted online. They submit one document by a specified deadline and each team member is listed as a joint author. Team members receive the same evaluation and grade for the Report.


Two of the Team Research Reports involves online Team Members in a cooperative project that takes several weeks to complete.  They discuss their progress in their weekly online meetings. They create an account in a social networking activity such as Instagram or Pinterest (for photo sharing and collecting), and Linkedin (for pre-professional communication activities). They each collect their own data relevant to pre-assigned topics or research questions. They comment on each other’s sections, put them together to read as on integrated report, and submit the final version by the prescribed deadline. Team members receive the same evaluation and grade for the Report.


The final Team Report involves them in creating a visually appealing online magazine issue (e.g., Joomag) about some of the course topics and intended for students in the next semester’s class.


Details on Method 4. Role Play Interactions

 Promotes engagement through social and emotional learning in action.


Details on Method 5. Self-maintained Online Records

Self-maintained online records in a class-shared spreadsheet produces engagement through responsibility and accountability.


Measures of Student Engagement


We have used the following measures of student engagement:

  1. Length of Posts (more words beyond the minimum required, generally means more engagement and stronger motivation)
  2. Making favorable comments about what one has learned and about team members (positive expressions indicate involvement and acceptance)
  3. End of semester student evaluation completion rates (the more students complete the voluntary anonymous online survey, the stronger is their involvement, either positive or negative)
  4. Number of missing or late Posts (which generally shows lack of engagement and motivation to do well)
  5. Number of students who got a perfect record and earned the grade of “A” (no late work past deadlines; no missing weekly posts; all posts meeting formatting and length requirements)
  6. Length of Reports (motivated and engaged students produce longer reports)

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