Being a university student often feels like being a sponge – going to class after class and absorbing all these new practices and information. The problem with being a sponge is that they are easily wrung. To retain and truly get the most of our experiences as students, engagement with course content is crucial.

Professors will build in participation marks to ensure students get a chance to engage. While it is a lot easier to neglect this without the physical presence of someone holding you accountable, it is vital to contribute to online courses the way you would any other class.

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) shows that student success is directly linked to student involvement. The 2016 report suggests that students who get help with coursework also invest more time in their studies and make greater use of effective learning strategies, which ultimately pays off with higher academic achievement.

Bruce Tsuji, a psychology professor at Carleton University, teaches multiple online courses. He says that a student’s engagement in an online course correlating with the likelihood of their success depends on the student themselves.

He advises students who are enrolled online to set up a schedule and stick to it.

“I think it’s really important life preparation or career training,” he says. “You’ve got to be able to set up schedules for yourself and follow it.”

There are other ways you can engage with online courses beyond what is expected to make the most of the experience. Check your syllabus for when professors hold their office hours; often they will offer a virtual alternative if you can’t make it in person. The NSSE report shows that students who request and receive help tend to have higher grades.

There might also be a discussion board where students can discuss concepts and have conversations with each other. Not only will your professor see you engaging, it’ll also make the course easier to deal with if you don’t feel alone.

When you are presented with an opportunity to demonstrate participation, take it. One of the ways Tsuji gets his students to engage is by asking them to tell their story using multimedia or text and by answering some questions about their lives for the whole class to see. He says he notices students who do the absolute minimum and the ones who are really outstanding, so assume your own professor is paying attention, too.

Aamir Mohammed is a fourth-year information technology student currently enrolled in an online psychology course. He says participation is important both for improving the overall experience and for moving forward in course material.

Mohammed suggests other students finish their online coursework as early as possible.

“I would tell [students] not to neglect it,” he says.

By Radiyah Chowdhury

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