Engaging Content Aligned with Activities, Assessment

Quality Review Showcase

The Quality and High Quality online course reviews explore components proven to be best practices in online course design. This post showcases Quality item 17, “The course offers opportunities for students to engage with the content, stating connection to learning activities or assessments, to enhance learning.”

Engaging with the content of a course is a first step to learning. Merely inserting content in a course does not ensure students will learn the intended concepts or skills, so it is important to provide students with guidance for how you expect them to interact with a given chunk of content. What objectives does the content address? On what major points or details should students focus? When students have taken in the content, their learning can be supported further with a structured opportunity to immediately do something with it to discover, process, or apply its concepts or skills.

What are Some Ways your Online Course can be Designed to meet this Standard?

  • Connect Objectives and Activities
    • At the beginning of each module, clarify how objectives are connected to the activities that students are doing. Remind students throughout the course how the content will be used later, ie “We will apply this point in our final project.”
      • Use the Templater Tool and select the Module Introduction template, which provides a structure that prompts the connections between module objectives and activities.
  • Integrate Real-World Examples
    • As students are learning a new concept, provide small real-world applications for the idea. A concept could be applied through a current news article, video, or current data (Trail-Constant, 2018).
  • Poll
    • In Webcourses@UCF, interactive Polls can be embedded within a page, assignment, discussion, or announcement. A poll can be used to check for student understanding of a topic, allowing the teacher to get a quick glimpse of overall understanding (Bauer, 2018). Polls are also helpful to elicit a metacognitive component. For example, ask “How comfortable do you feel with this week’s topic?” and provide a few choices to provide a quick read of the class. A quick poll can also prompt students to reflect on their own understanding and needs.
  • Check for Understanding
    • Incorporate other kinds of checks for understanding to enable students to practice applying the new content. Formative assessments should be low-stakes and allow multiple attempts.This may come in the form of a quick game, like a Materia Widget, a survey, or a practice quiz with multiple attempts.

What Does This Look like in a Real Online Course?

Example 1: Candi Cain, HFT4755, Theme Park and Attraction Management

Before students view module content, Ms. Cain uses a short survey to activate student prior experiences related to the content.

screenshot of student survey

Example 2. Elzbieta Sikorska, SYG2010, Social Problems

Dr. Sikorska asks students to watch a video about real-world social problems and then asks reflective questions. For example, students watch Poor Kids, which explores the lives of children living in the suburbs of the nation’s heartland and growing up poor, told from the point of view of the children themselves.

She then asks the following questions to encourage students to engage with what they saw and connect it to the reading:

  1. First, summarize the film and explain what is this film about for you? In your summary, refer to the scene that made the greatest impression on you and explain how did it inform your understanding of poverty?
  2. Is child poverty in the United States a “private trouble” or “public issue”? In other words, are the key causes of child poverty rooted in individuals or society? In your response, refer to specific examples from the film. (To answer this question correctly, you may need to re-read Chapter 1 section on “Private Troubles, Public Issues.”)
  3. Define the concept of “inequality as structural violence” (as presented in Chapter 2 section: Impacts of Global Poverty and Inequality) and describe different ways in which inequality/poverty affects the quality of people’s lives. How does this film illustrate the effects of poverty on children? For example, how living in poverty affects children’s school performance, self-esteem and life chances such as going to college, getting a decent job, playing football? Do you think that these children will be able to achieve their dreams? Why or why not?
  4. Briefly describe various programs/strategies to fight poverty/inequality (as presented in Chapter 2). Which of these strategies might be most effective in fighting child poverty in the US? For example, should we (society) strive to provide their parents with better paying jobs or should we rely on economic growth alone to lift them out of poverty? Explain why

She uses a rubric to grade the responses, with three criteria: summary, application of sociological concepts, and grammar & format.

Example 3. Peter Sinelli, ANT3177, Archaeology of Caribbean Piracy

When students encounter lectures or readings cold, they may have no idea what parts are more important than others or how they’ll use the content. They may miss important concepts trying to absorb everything. When providing new content, guide student focus to what you really want them to pay attention to. Before each lecture video, Dr. Sinelli provides tips on what students should look and listen for as they view his video lecture.

screenshot of video-watching tips


Bauer, S. 2018. Embed interactive questioning within course content. In Chen, B., deNoyelles, A., & Thompson, K. (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning. Retrieved from https://topr.online.ucf.edu/embed-interactive-questioning-within-course-content/.

Trail-Constant, T. 2018. Integrating real-world examples in an online course. In Chen, B., deNoyelles, A., & Thompson, K. (Eds.), Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning. Retrieved from https://topr.online.ucf.edu/r_wslotgtwli0a45h/.