Following Asynchronous Course Engagement

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Student engagement has been described as “the extent of students’ involvement and active participation in learning activities” (Cole & Chat, 1994, p.259). How can you follow student engagement in your course when you do not meet with students in live classes? This post shares some ideas!

Why follow engagement

Learner engagement is a critical element of learning (Gray & DiLoreto, 2016). As faculty delivering an asynchronous course, you can promote and support different types of learner engagement, such as:

  • behavioural engagement, or course participation, such as visiting requisite pages and completing activities;
  • cognitive engagement, or mental investment and effort, to demonstrate progress toward learning outcomes; and
  • emotional engagement, which can affect the willingness to learn and feel part of a learning community (Fredericks et al., 2004; Brooks et. al., n.d.).

Following student engagement can also help you keep track of attendance and support at-risk students, both required per the College’s Course Delivery Procedure.

Consider using many strategies described below to get the best picture of student engagement in your course.

Follow behavioural engagement

Behavioural engagement in an asynchronous course can include the frequency, duration, and extent of time students spend with course resources and activities. Activity tracking tools in eConestoga may be used to sense levels of behavioural engagement.

Please note: Activity tracking tools within eConestoga do not “give the full picture” of student engagement and not be relied on as the only indicators of student involvement in your course.

Ideas and tools for following behavioural engagement

Using eConestoga activity tracking tools, you can

  • Review each student’s course access (Course Tools > Class Progress > Click User’s Name > “Course Access” tab),
  • Review what content each student has viewed (“content completed” 1. Course Tools > Class Progress),
  • Review what content all students have visited (“content” under Content > Table of Contents > Related Tools > View Reports).

If you note low levels of behavioural engagement, you may wish to contact the student to help them navigate the course successfully.

Monitor cognitive engagement and progress

Cognitive engagement can include students’ effort in learning as they complete activities and assignments. Monitoring how students engage cognitively with course content and class members can help students know how they are doing in the course and feel successful.

Ideas and tools for monitoring cognitive engagement

Using eConestoga tools, you can

  • Monitor the completion and results of quiz questions (Course Tools > Quizzes > Statistics),
  • Review student reading and response rates to discussion threads (Course Tools > Discussions > Statistics),
  • Review students’ assignment submissions (Assignments>View Submissions or At-Risk Students Report > Late Assessments),
  • Review student grades (1. Course Tools > Class Progress, 2. Course Tools > Grades, 3. At-Risk Students report),
  • Provide poll or survey check-ins (e.g., Start, Stop, Continue).

If you note levels of cognitive engagement that just meet or do not meet minimum pass levels, you may wish to reach out to students directly to support them. If a student has missed multiple assignments or requires student services support, you can refer the student to a Student Success Advisor.

Support emotional engagement

Emotional engagement can involve positive interactions with you and other students. Emotional engagement helps to minimize feelings of being overwhelmed or isolated and increases a willingness to engage in the course (Pilotti, 2017). Supporting emotional engagement can help reinforce behavioural and cognitive engagement as well!

Ideas for supporting emotional engagement

Here are some ways to help students feel part of a learning community:

  • Describe communication expectations early (respect, cultural sensitivity, etc.)
  • Communicate often and in a tone that is positive, warm, and approachable, and use multimedia
  • Provide a “Virtual Cafe” discussion forum for fun or social sharing
  • Send notes praising students or group participation and progress
  • Send notes to students when you notice their absence to say you have missed hearing from them
  • Encourage and support students in communicating and collaborating together
  • Invite students to reach out by email or set a meeting with concerns

Emotional engagement levels can be subjective and variable, and the cues may be subtle. One study found, for instance, that students who feel emotionally engaged “may express their comfort by using a more personal tone” (Pilotti et al., 2017, p.150).

While assessing students’ emotional engagement may not be straightforward, consider contacting students right away if they seem to be in distress. Encourage students to contact the Student Success Services (My Wellness) for support. If you notice a dramatic change in student behaviour that worries you, you may wish to submit a CARE Team form.

More information and next steps

For more on the effects of student engagement in online learning, see this literature review by Gray and DiLoreto (2016): “The effects of student engagement, student satisfaction, and perceived learning in online learning environments.”

To learn more about locating and using eConestoga activity tracking tools, contact eConestoga support by email, phone (519-748-5220 x3187), or daily Zoom drop in (visit eConestoga).


Brooks, T. (n.d.). Best strategies to engage students in asynchronous online courses. SIUE Faculty Centre.

Cole, P.G., and Chan, L.K.S. (1994), Teaching Principles and Practice, 2nd edn, Prentice Hall,New York, NY.

Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School Engagement: Potential of the Concept, State of the Evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 59-109.

Gray, J., & DiLoreto, M. (2016). The Effects of Student Engagement, Student Satisfaction, and Perceived Learning in Online Learning Environments. National Council of Professors of Educational Administration (NCPEA).

Pilotti, M.A., Anderson, S., Hardy, P., Murphy, P.F., & Vincent, P.J. (2017). Factors Related to Cognitive, Emotional, and Behavioral Engagement in the Online Asynchronous Classroom. The International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 29, 145-153.

Elan Paulson

Elan Paulson, PhD, has been an educator in Ontario's higher education system since 2004. Before joining Conestoga as a Teaching and Learning Consultant, Elan was on the executive team at eCampusOntario. She previously served as Program Director and as an instructor in professional education programs at Western University's Faculty of Education. With a Master's in Educational Technology, Elan specializes in technology-enabled and collaborative learning to support diverse learners. She has also conducted research on faculty participation in communities of practice for professional learning and self-care.

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