Three Ways to Become Student-Centered

Our eLearning Team is moving toward student-centered learning in our courses. This approach is often miles away from how the course existed in the past, or how the subject matter expert envisions the online course to be.

I have found three ways to help our team and SMEs move toward becoming student-centered in all of our course development projects.

First, provide onboard training for online/blended instructors. Next, build interaction into every course. And finally, establish and sustain teacher presence while facilitating the course.

1. Step into their shoes.

Image used with a creative commons license.

At the conclusion of the faculty training course that I facilitate for my university, participants consistently express value gained from “being a student” in the course. This constructive approach to training creates a safe space for future instructors to experience the nitty-gritty challenges that their students will also face. This is what they tell me:

  • Initially they are faced with their own misconceptions about online education and are forced to make time management decisions during the first week of training.
  • They experience gratification that comes from timely instructor feedback and encouragement.
  • They discover asynchronous momentum that develops in the discussion forum, and begin to research, practice, and develop strategies to create and sustain this kind of phenomenon in their own courses.
  • They experience tools within the LMS for the first time, and recognize the value of a Wiki activity, a Reflection journal, and publishing a video reflection in the Blog.

Being a student helps them understand the reasons for decisions made in the course design, and highlights strategies they must employ for students to have a successful online experience.

2. Design interaction.

Created using Adobe Photoshop.


Researchers find that designing the course to include social presence is a sure way to become student-centered. Creating opportunities for interaction and communication among members leads the way for social presence, which Richardson and Swan (2003) describe as: “The degree to which a person is perceived as ‘real’ in mediated communication. (p 70).

Julie and Kenneth Kendall, from the School of Business-Camden at Rutgers University, believe that storytelling works well to enhance social presence in an online course. When designing an online or blended course, consider presenting a scenario, a story, or case study through video, audio, or text. Then, ask students to share their perceptions, and interact with one another over them.

The Kendall’s found that four highly valuable functions result from this type of interaction in an online course:

  • members get a feeling for what has happened (experiential),
  • the decisions made and consequences that follow are explained (explanatory),
  • concepts, policies and strategies are validated (validation), and members are guided to a preferred outcome leading to success (prescriptive). (Kendall & Kendall, p. 68).

When designing an online/blended course, be upfront about why you are student-centered and make every decision accordingly.

3. Work hard at communicating.

Adobe Spark(3)
Meme created using Adobe Spark; quote attributed to Roy Williams.

Lala Hajibayova, writes in “Student’s Viewpoint: What Constitutes Presence in an Online Classroom?” that the Community of Inquiry framework informs presence in a practical way by recognizing that both instructor and student contribute to learning. Three types of presence work together in the COI framework: cognitive presence, social presence, and teacher presence.

Hajibayova believes that teacher presence buoys both cognitive and social presence, holding all three together for a strong student-centered online environment. She discovered that students perceive teacher presence when they receive regular communication through varying channels. Think engagement in discussion forums, email messages, course announcements, timely feedback on assignments, and thoughtful responses to questions they have asked. (Hajibayova, p. 22).

It takes considerable time in the first week of a course to establish instructor presence. You will stay busy answering questions via email, posting announcements to clarify expectations, involving yourself in the first discussion forum to model the type of activity students will need to embrace. Once students can trust that you are there, you can ease off a bit and rely on key instructor functions built into the course, like grading, feedback, facilitating discussion, and interacting with students in the private journal. As one training participant in my course put it:

“Teaching online is not a weekend job.”

These are just three strategies for becoming student-centered when designing online and blended courses—of course there are many more!

Our team would like to hear from you – what strategies have you found to be successful, and why do you think they worked so well? Do you have a story to share about teacher presence? Interaction? Putting yourself in your student’s shoes? Leave a comment to start the conversation!


Hajibayova, L. (2016). Students’ viewpoint: What constitutes presence in an online classroom? Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 55:(1), 12-25.

Kendall, J. E. & Kendall, K. E. (2017). Enhancing online executive education using storytelling: An approach to strengthening online presence. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 15(1), 62-81.

Richardson, J., & Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses
in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous
Learning Networks, 7(1), 68–88.


Motivation in Education: Attention

Engaged students at computers
This image has been shared under a creative commons license ( via Jisc (

In my last post, I introduced John Keller’s ARCS Model for Motivation. The ARCs model has practical application in face-to-face, online, and blended learning environments. To recap, Keller’s ARCS Model has four parts:

  • Attention
  • Relevance
  • Confidence
  • Satisfaction

This post focuses on how you can gain a student’s attention to increase and improve his or her motivation to learn.

Liao and Wang (2008) discovered that incorporating Keller’s ARCS model in instructional design and classroom instruction allows instructors to “early spot students’ learning problems and make an early instruction intervention to further appropriately modify teaching strategies to meet various learners’ needs” (p. 56).

Did you catch that? If used in course creation and instruction, Keller’s ARCS Model for Motivation helps teachers to be more aware of their students’ learning problems. This awareness helps you adjust the curriculum and your teaching style to meet their learning needs.

Gaining Your Student’s Attention

Chesebro and McCroskey (2002, p. 90) found that “making eye contact and smiling at students, calling them by name, and using vocal variety and appropriate humor” are effective strategies to increase and maintain students’ attention in face-to-face learning environments. The character, John Keating, exemplifies these teaching strategies in the film Dead Poets Society (Weir, 1989).

Morrison (2012) offers some key strategies to increase and maintain students’ attention in online and blended learning environments: “provide timely feedback on assignments, respond to students within 24 hours, include constructive and personalized feedback on assignments, craft a weekly message, acknowledge academic challenges, and comment strategically within the discussion boards.”

When my professors used these strategies, they increased and maintained my attention. In turn, my motivation to learn and do well in my classes increased as well.

For example, in my online MA in Strategic Communication program at Liberty University, one of my professors consistently responded to my questions within 24 hours or less. He provided timely and personalized feedback on assignments. His weekly announcements and videos prepared us for the topic(s) that week and reminded us of what was due. He asked questions and responded to students in the discussion board. By engaging students in the discussion board, my professor made the discussion lively and active—encouraging students to participate.

In my next post, we will discover practical ways to motivate your students by making your course content relevant to them in and outside of the classroom.


Chesebro, J. L., & McCroskey, J. C. (Eds.). (2002). Communication for teachers. Pearson.

Jisc. (2015, August 21). [Gaining students’ attention]. Retrieved from

Liao, H.-C., & Wang, Y.-H. (2008). Applying the ARCS motivation model in technological and vocational education. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 1(2), 53-58.

love2b1. (2007, April 14). Dead poets society-3 [Video file]. Retrieved from

Morrison, D. (2012, August 31). How to motivate students in the online learning environment. Retrieved April 26, 2017, from Online Learning Insights website:


Motivation in Education: Overview

motivation-imageMotivating students is one of the most difficult tasks for a teacher. Don’t believe me? How many students are like Jeremy in this Zits Comic? A student’s motivation does not rely solely on his or her own effort, but also on the teacher’s behavior and the way he or she presents content. John Keller understood this when he created his ARCS Model for Motivation in 1983.

As a student studying to be a professor, I cannot stress enough the impact Keller’s ARCS model has had not only on my motivation to learn but also on the way I plan to teach and motivate others. Keller’s ARCS Model can be practically applied in face-to-face, online, and blended learning environments. The model has four parts:

  1. Attention
  2. Relevance
  3. Confidence
  4. Satisfaction

A combination of the four elements increases and maintains student motivation in and outside of the classroom. Teachers can use attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction in their classrooms to help students become motivated, remember the content, and do well in class.

In his research, Dupont (2012) noted that Keller’s motivation principles:

“have been shown to be valid and stable over the years in virtually all cultures and at all levels of education, even though there are many differences in the practices used to achieve them” (p. 28).

The key phrase is “there are many differences in the practices used to achieve them.” The world of education is changing. Face-to-face is no longer the only type of learning environment and students’ learning styles are ever-changing. More and more students seem to be psychomotor (hands-on) learners rather than cognitive learners. Teachers need to be aware of these trends and adapt their instruction accordingly, depending on the subject that they teach and the students they are teaching.

Remember, there’s a myriad of ways to implement and apply Keller’s ARCS Model in your teaching style and lesson plans. Over the next few posts in my Motivation in Education series, we’ll look at each of the ARCS components so you can think about how you can implement and apply each of them in your learning environment—whether it’s face-to-face, online, or blended.

DuPont, J. S. (2012). Nursing faculty motivation to use high-fidelity simulation: An application of Keller’s ARCS model (Order No. 3547010). Available from ProQuest Central; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1267836282). Retrieved from

Scott, J., & Borgman, J. (2016, January 3). [Motivation in education]. Retrieved from