Resources & Strategies for Engaging Students

Engaging students with one another and with course content increases the likelihood of achieving learning outcomes. Here, we have gathered resources to get you started. We’ve included suggestions for in-person teaching as well as remote teaching. 


  1. Harvard Activity Database offers multiple approaches to in-class activities and assignments categorically organized.
  2. Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence curates resources from a variety of sources on numerous topic including student engagement.
  3. Getting to know your students is an IST resource with suggestions for students to get to know you, you to get to know your students, and students get to know each other, paving the way for further student engagement.
  4. Best Practices for Engaging Students, list of considerations and tools based on faculty interviews.
  5. Increasing Learner Engagement in Remote Settings, a LinkedIn Learning module, offers a dozen 3-4 minute videos with simple strategies for increasing student engagement.
  6. Zoom Questioning Strategies to Increase Engagement aligns Zoom tools (chat, polls, whiteboard, and more) with strategies for engaging students with content and each other.
  7. Active Learning While Physically Distancing – Baumgartner provides a matrix of student engagement goals and instructional formats with techniques populated throughout.
  8. Strategies for Creating Engaging Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning Environments offers ideas for inserting student interaction into course sessions.
  9. Keep Teaching – Engaging Students, official University resource for teaching during Covid-19 semesters
  10. Faculty Support for Engaging Students, compendium of Penn State resources, including communication guides, teaching demonstration videos, University guidance regarding webcams for engagement, student resources, and more
  • Virtual Study Groups: Guidance for Faculty highlights the importance of student collaborative learning and includes study group considerations, technical how-to’s for setting up group spaces, and additional resources.

Engagement Strategies

  • Using Collaborative Teams. Assign partners in the classroom that can talk 6 ft apart. Alternatively, students can “talk” through texts on Microsoft Teams or through a shared Google document.
  • Individual Student Engagement. Pause during lecture to ask a question, administer a poll, or direct students to identify the three things they have learned so far from the lecture.
  • Assessing Understanding. Pose several questions based upon lesson content and have students write their responses. Students can turn these in at the end of class. Instructors may also ask for some students to share a selection of responses or summary of their responses with the whole class.
  • Strengthening Understanding. Use an online drawing tool to have students work collaboratively in real-time to add and/or create a concept map in order to help connect ideas.
  • Prepare students for upcoming remote class sessions. Ask students to set up their PSU Zoom accounts ahead of time and to reach out to if they have any account issues, let them know that being on camera is optional for the course, and offer to work with any student who is unsure that their technology is equipped to handle videoconferences.
  • Use Zoom features to elicit quick student responses, check for understanding, or get feedback.
    • Chat: Generate ideas by posing a question and prompting students to reply in the chat window. Chat works well, especially in large classes, because everyone can “talk” at once.
    • Non-verbal Feedback: Students can click on “Participants” (called “Manage Participants” for hosts) and give non-verbal feedback.
      • Buttons: Prompt students to use the Yes/No buttons to yes/no questions or the thumbs up/down buttons to show that they agree or disagree with a question or prompt.
      • Raised hands: Encourage students to use the “Raise Hand” feature in the Participants window when they have a question or something to share.
    • Whiteboard: Use the “Share Screen Button” to create a white canvas that you and students can type and draw on. This can be used in the main room and breakout rooms, and participants can save the image to their computer.
  • Make time for individual reflection, and be comfortable with a little silence. Give students time to work individually, whether it’s to read and respond, work on a task, or reflect. It’s easy to get distracted in online environments, so if you do include individual work time, consider calling on students after this time ends or having them submit their work.
  • Regular announcementsRegular (weekly) announcements help keep students engaged with the progression of the course. These announcements can provide a summary of how things went in the previous week, preview what to look forward to in the coming week(s), and share any tips and tricks to help students navigate the course going forward. Sporadic announcements can also be used to engage students. These can be used for special information such as informing students of opportunities, celebrating milestones, or sharing a relevant news article.
  • Connecting as a Person. Part of being in a class is being in a community of learners. Students value the knowledge and experience provided by the instructor. Demonstrating your lived experiences regarding course content can help to make student learning seem more relevant. In online courses, and particularly in asynchronous courses, it is even more important for students and instructors to connect. Connecting at a personal level allows for strong collaboration on group projects and make it easier to give and receive feedback.
  • Connecting to the PSU Community. Students who are working at a distance, and likely more so those without a synchronous class schedule, value connections back to Penn State. Pointing out news from across the University and activities that can be accessed remotely provides connections back to Penn State and can help promote a feeling of being part of the Penn State community.