Gaining & Sustaining Engagement

Enhancing Interactivity

Gaining and sustaining student engagement, especially when working on their own online, can sometimes be difficult. A common strategy is to increase interactivity by developing online activities that responds to the student’s use.

When creating interactive content, consider first the student journey; how will they move through the activity and how can you make this clear for them? This will help the interactive content link together to form a cohesive whole. When planning and creating, it can be useful to look at the various models when building a frame work.

One useful model to refer to is Keller’s well established ARCS Model of Motivation. This is based on four key elements:

Engage & Stimulate Interest
Signpost their activity journey
Highlight the benefits and purpose of each activity
Show how it links to previous learning
Provide clear instructions for the task
contextualise tasks to previous learning
Reinforce and summarise learning
Provide feedback


Gaining your student’s attention is the critical first step. This can be done in a number of ways:

  • Thought provoking questions, that sets out the topic for discussion or challenges pre-conceived notions.
  • Hands-on activities or challenges that encourages early student participation.
  • Judicious use of humour, such as videos or comic strips that establishes broad concepts to be covered.
  • Reference real-world examples/case studies to stimulate the thought process.
  • Variation in approaches, that avoids the over use of previously successful strategies.


To keep your student’s attention, it must be clear to them early on why this activity is of benefit to them. Approaches include:

  • Link back to previous activities and explain how this one will build upon it or lead somewhere new.
  • Highlight how this activity will help them in the future (employability for example). If available, this can further be enhanced by providing examples of how others have used this skill or knowledge to benefit them.
  • Provide choice in activities, enabling students to take some ownership over the activities taken.


To continue with the activity until completion, student’s should feel confident that they can (with effort) complete it and that it will deliver the expected benefits. Here are some ideas you might consider:

  • Signpost the activities clearly and set clear objectives upfront, explaining what is expected and how they will be assessed (or complete the activity).
  • Be consistent, provide content titles and explanatory text to all items and ensure you check links to external pages and resources, to help convey the impression of a well-prepared activity to underpin the student’s confidence in what they are learning.
  • Chunking the activity into attainable steps, is also an important strategy, encouraging students to develop a sense of their own improvement.
  • Provide further student choice (where possible) on how to tackle the activity, further encouraging students to feel ownership over their own learning.


In Keller’s model, there is a direct link between motivation and student satisfaction. A sense of achievement and pride in that achievement are important components for maintaining motivation and sustaining engagement. As such, try to:

  • Provide feedback and reward success. This is a well known motivator for students, but can be time-consuming to complete for every-student every-time, especially when working asynchronously online. Alternatives such as short quizzes within the VLE can provide automated feedback that is both scalable and repeatable, whereas establishing peer-support networks can also prove invaluable for all involved. However, try not to over-reward, especially for perceived easy tasks, which may have the opposite effect.
  • Provide support on how this newly acquired skill or knowledge can be applied, such as explaining what they will do next or providing real-world examples of its benefit.