Adult Learners in Asynchronous Online Courses and Engagement

By Dr. Aishah Almefarfesh.

Many  educators mostly do online course training to the students. However, recently, some of the students approached them inquiring about the level of engagements that will be required of them during the course (Kebble, 2017).  This further ignited the curiosity of the researcher about the concerns regarding the experience of students in online courses supported currently by the anecdotal evidence from the previous research.  According to Braten and Streomso(2006), there has been an upsurge in the number of students enrolled in the online courses. This translates into a higher probability of so many student’s engagement impacted by the online courses. Through this qualitative research, the researcher aims at addressing how the online courses influence the student engagement in learning. 

As Stallings (2002) asserted, there is the growing need to do continuous evaluations for the virtual universities that have been fueled by the advancement in Technology. Some of the online technology used include use of emails, course management systems, video conference, discussion boards and social media among others (Chen, Lambert & Guidry, 2010). They are very efficient in achieving the thirst for education for the distant online students (Parsad& Lewis, 2008). It has been established that the educational program being undertaken online has faced various challenges that affect universally all the online students no matter the grade, the subject matter, and institutional courses. Some of the problems faced include: 

    Firstly, the absentia of facial contact made between the student and the instructors prevent the nonverbal cues evaluation of the level of engagement the student gives towards his/her learning or whether frustrated the student is (Moore, 2006). Secondly, the institution is barred from expressing their emotions to the student in the form of encouragement or enthusiasm and concern basing on the recorded data of the student engagement to learning. Thirdly, the platform of the online course framework facilitates the tendency of the students to withdraw from the normal course timetable, participate at a minimal rate or altogether disappear from the course program. Finally, the students have the preference of online courses because it requires minimal of their time hence promotes their disengagement levels in learning (Hutchins, 2003). 

    On the contrary, the use of online course program at the institution is also attributed to some of the benefits.  Some of the benefits are important for the engagement of the student in learning. Such benefits include: 

Firstly, the nature of the online study permits the student to study at their own pace at their appropriate time within the schedules. The program is so flexible such that it can be accessed at odd and any hours like midnight by the student hence captures their full engagement. Subsequently, the students enjoy the immediate feedback from the assignments and interactive features on the online educational platform. Finally, the online platform offers a tremendous opportunity for the students to express creativity, flexibility, and interactivity in their engagement to learning online courses (Moore, 2006).    

Educator Behavior to improve the Student engagement to learning online 

    The engagement of the students to learning online courses is significantly impacted by the contribution of the instructors. The instructors, like the students, need to set the expectations right for the students about the course, keep alive communication and do an assessment of the online course program to make adjustments that will improve the student engagement to learning the online course. 

            a)    Setting expectations

    The instructors can set the expectations of the course by clearly communicating the course expectations at the beginning through a video clip. Moreover, the instructor needs to update the website student portal with notifications on changing, closing or opening online courses. Subsequently, the instructor needs to set sound goals for the online course to help students judge the worthiness of the course. Finally, the instructor needs to create a short video to introduce each activity (Hutchins, 2003) 

            b)    Communication

   According to Crumpacker (2001), the online educators need to engage the students often online giving quick feedbacks in raising the online student enthusiasm. In addition, as recommended by Dennis et al. (2007), the instructors ought to be generous in appreciating the efforts of students who have done a good work and then document it. Finally, the instructors should utilize the social channels like video Skype and video iChat to maintain an active interaction and discussion with the students on an individual level. 

         c)    Assessment

    The use of Jing software which can create a narrated video screen capture video to point various aspect of the assignment and record verbal feedback to the student’s online assignments. Similarly, the instructor should personalize each assignment time and give acknowledgment when they are received back (Crumpacker, 2001).  

Thus, the student engagement, the student involvement in the education activities, has been proved to be the most reliable indicator of the student performance in school (Kuh, 2001). The student is thus vulnerable to the inside and outside factors that influence their engagement levels. According to Ormrod (2011), the use of learning strategies, academic behavior, quantitative reasoning, higher order learning, reflective and interactive learning increases the overall cognitive reasoning and content knowledge.  Although there has been extensive research on the impact of the widespread online course medium of teaching on the students’ attainment and learning outcomes, little is yet known about the impact of online course education kit on the engagement of students. 

By the late 1990s, the number of online courses has tripled. In 2001, 57% of the students enrolled in online courses. A few studies have proven that the use of online course has a positive impact on the engagement of students to learning (Friedman, 2014). For example, a study established that the use of asynchronous technology promoted reflection resulting to greater thinking capacity (Robinson &Hullinger, 2006). According to Thurmond and Wambach (2004), the use of online courses increased the teamwork among the students while undertaking the educational activities. There have been various investigations on the effectiveness of online studies by discipline, little research has been done on the how the online course impacts the student engagement to learning (Dominguez &Ridney, 2001).

To sum up,  Various studies confirm that the students have a positive attitude towards online courses because they are flexible and have transformed them to become independent, self-motivated learners. However, it would be better if the students have more than the discussion board because it is only supports texts from both lecturers and the students. Some students view the discussion board as less engaging, and students end up misinterpreting information because it is difficult to understand the tone of the writer. The learners would like some features to be added to the board such as video chatting to enable learners to view each other and understand various communication cues such as facial expressions when one is sharing ideas.


Braten, I., &Streomso, H. I. (2006). Epistemological beliefs, interest, and gender as predictors of Internet-based learning activities. Computers in Human Behavior.  

Biswas, A., Agarwal, R. R., & Srivastava, R. (2016). Online Class Discovery using Bayesian Non-Parametric Methods Collapsed Gibbs Sampler for Dirichlet Process Mixture. 

Burke, A. S., & Fedorek, B. (2017). Does “flipping” promote engagement?: A comparison of a traditional, online, and flipped class. Active Learning in Higher Education, 18(1), 11-24. 

Cooper, L. W. (2017). A comparison of online and traditional computer applications classes. THE Journal (Technological Horizons in Education), 28(8), 52-58. 

Czerkawski, Betül, C. (2016). Blending formal and informal learning networks for online learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(3). 

Chen, P. D., Lambert, A. D., & Guidry, K. R. (2010). Engaging online learners: The impact of web-based learning technology on student engagement. Computers & Education. 

Crumpacker (2001) Faculty pedagogical approach, skill, and motivation in today’s distance education milieu. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. 

Dennis et al. (2007) the little engine that could – How to start the motor? Motivating the online student. 

Dominguez, P. S., & Ridley, D. R. (2001). Assessing distance education courses and discipline differences in effectiveness. Journal of Instructional Psychology.  

Friedman, J. (2014). Online education by discipline: A graduate student’s guide.  

Fendler, R. J., Ruff, C., & Shrikhande, M. (2016). Evaluating characteristics of top and bottom performance: Online versus in-class. American Journal of Distance Education, 30(2), 109-120. 

Hutchins (2003). Instructional immediacy and the seven principles: Strategies for facilitating online courses. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. 

Kebble.G.( 2017).  Assessing Online Asynchronous Communication Strategies Designed to Enhance Large Student Cohort Engagement and Foster a Community of Learning. Redfame Publishing. Journal of Education and Training Studies. Vol. 5, No. 8. Retrieved from 

Kuh, G. D. (2001). The National Survey of Student Engagement: Conceptual framework and overview of psychometric properties. Bloomington, in Indiana University, Center for Postsecondary Research. 

Moore (2006). Collaboration online: Sloan-C Resources. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. 

Ormrod, J.E. (2011). Human learning (6thed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. 

Parsad, B., & Lewis, L. (2008). Distance education at degree-granting Postsecondary Institutions: 2006–2007 (NCES 2009–044). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences. Washington, DC: US Department of Education.  

Robinson, C. C., &Hullinger, H. (2008). New benchmarks in higher education: Student engagement in online learning. Journal of Education for Business. 

Stallings, D. (2002). Measuring success in the virtual university. The Journal of Academic Librarianship. 

Sarder, B. (2014). Improving student engagement in online courses. 121st ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition. Indianapolis, IN: American Society for Engineering Education. 

Thurmond, V., & Wambach, K. (2004). Understanding interactions in distance education: A review of the literature. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning. 

Young, S., & Bruce, M. A. (2011). Classroom community and student engagement in online courses. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(2), 219-229. 

Leave a Reply