6 Interesting Assignments to Engage Online Students

by | Jun 28, 2017 | Teaching ESL

For students, nothing is more boring than mundane assignments. They are a real motivation killer as well as a mood killer. You were a student once, too, so you’ll agree that education should be exciting and inspiring.

Online educators face increasing difficulties with keeping their students motivated and engaged because they do not meet in person. They cannot identify whether someone starts to lose motivation and try to help.

To help you avoid that in the first place, we have collected a number of fascinating online assignments that can really help engagement and motivation to learn. 

A Meeting with a Prominent Individual

This one is designed to increase motivation by using creative skills of the students. The main idea of this assignment is simple: find a person, interview them, discuss certain topics discussed in the class, and enjoy the experience. Although any person can be selected for an interview, it could be even better if that person was a politician, a philosopher, an author, an athlete, or somehow prominent individual.

This assignment works great in increasing engagement, especially if you give the students all freedom in selecting the person for the interview. Also, it would be fascinating for you to read all those interviews as well! So, assign a deadline and make sure they focus on discussing class topics!

Here are some helpful resources for your students to prepare for this assignment.

Group Discussion

The fact that you’re a teaching an online class should not stop you from nurturing the sense of community. Of course, your students may not know each other and they will probably never meet in life but group activities foster collaboration skills.

If your online learning environment has a discussion forum, let’s begin to take real advantage of it. Create a threat with a controversial topic and ask your students to discuss it and take specific stands. For example, if you’re teaching an astronomy class, you could ask whether humanity should colonize the planet next to ours, Mars.

Some of your students will support the idea of colonization arguing that it’s too dangerous to leave all life on one planet. On the other hand, others will take an opposing position, suggesting that we should fix our planet first and don’t contaminate other worlds. Just imagine how fascinating a discussion like this could be!

Here are more discussion topics for your class:

    • Do celebrities earn too much money?
    • Do curfews keep teens out of trouble?
    • Is human activity a substantial cause of global climate change?

See How It’s Done

A direct observation of working process and practice are critical elements of effective education. In addition to a great opportunity to learn outside an online learning environment, the students can actually see how the knowledge is applied in real-life settings. This assignment works well for most professions.

For example, if you are teaching the history of English language, arrange a visit to a prominent history site and give the students the opportunity to speak with real scientists who make discoveries. As the result, they will get some valuable advice as well as great experience.

Ask your students to prepare a report and reflect on the visit.

A Random Photo Creative Assignment

You don’t have to be a photography teacher to use this incredible assignment. You know what they say: a picture is worth a thousand words. Use the power of a photo to convey some concepts and ideas from your subject.

It can be done in two ways: taking a random photo (works best for philosophy classes) or a photo of a specific object or a person (works well for sociology and history). Ask to characterize the photo using models, theories, or knowledge learned in the class.

As the result, your students have an opportunity to practice their creative skills as well as critical thinking skills. Check out these resources your students could use for this assignment

An Urgent Paper

This assignment is perfect for evaluating the knowledge retention of your students. The idea is to write a paper that summarizes the learning session in only one minute without preparation. It can be really challenging to beat the clock and complete a good paper, so your students will be tested for a real knowledge.

This one-minute paper can be assigned right after the end of a learning session or anytime you want. Just make sure that the amount of information is reasonable for this time limit. If you feel like you should provide more time for completion, feel free to expend the time to five and even ten minutes.

A Teacher for a Lesson

The last item on our list is another simple but powerful assignment. Here, you should ask your students to perform your duties for a little bit by grading the works of each other. For example, have them write an essay and send ungraded papers back to the class. Each student will read and grade the work of another learner.

As the result, the students become teachers for this lesson. Their feedback will demonstrate the effectiveness of their critical thinking skills and could be really helpful for others to identify some mistakes and shortcomings in their work.

The following resources will help your students to improve their feedback skills:

Final Thoughts

There are many fascinating assignments for online students that can help increase their motivation and engagement. Feel free to give a shot to the ones described in this article because online classes should not be boring but fascinating and exciting! Let these tips be helpful to you to keep your students engaged and thanks for reading!

Thanks to Diana for this post – Diana is an ESL Teacher with 5 years of successful work experience in teaching English as a second language, interactive teaching, and initiating supportive online lessons for ESL students. Feel free to follow Diana on Twitter

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