I. Course Design Principles > B. Course Content

I.B.2. The content and activities foster student engagement with the material.

Values Supported



It is sometimes difficult to gauge how engaging a set of materials will be to the student. However, effort should be made to help the students be active learners, to see the relevance of the materials to their desired activities, or otherwise increase their interest level.

This element supports Responsibility, because more engaged students will take greater responsibility for their own learning; Co-presence, because using group activities will lead to more interaction among students; and Technology, because technology supports alternate modes of presentation, other than verbal or textual.


There are a number of ways to challenge students with the material that are likely to enhance their motivation for engaging with the activities.

  • Present experientially-based material, through the use of visual resources, the use of story or narrative, or multimedia forms of presentation.
  • Require active participation or hands-on activities, through puzzles, role-playing, games, simulations or other “lab work.”
  • Present incongruity and conflict, through facts or statements that run contrary to the learner’s previous experiences. Compare and contrast conflicting views, or play Devil’s Advocate.
  • Stimulate curiosity by posing questions or problems for the learners to solve. Offer opportunities for brainstorming or performing team research.
  • Use a variety of methods when presenting material.
  • Use humor appropriately and judiciously. Humor supports the value of co-presence, and can lead to better student participation and engagement (Schatz & LoSchaivo, 2006).


Several of the above examples come from the discussion of John Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivation (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction) at Don Clark’s Web site:

For a discussion of the use of humor in online classes, see
Schatz, M.A. & LoSchaivo, F.M. (2006). Bringing Life to Online Instruction with Humor. Radical Pedagogy, 8(2).
Available: http://radicalpedagogy.icaap.org/content/issue8_2/shatz.html

For a discussion of authentic learning, see
Lombardi, M.I. (2007). Authentic Learning for the 21st Century: An Overview.Available at http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli3009.pdf