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Encouraging engagement: video-conference augmentation of online distance learning environments

David Starr-Glass (Department of Communications, University of New York in Prague, Prague, Czech Republic and Center for International Education (Prague), SUNY Empire State College, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 15 July 2020

Issue publication date: 21 October 2020




The purpose of this reflection on practice is to consider and attempt made by the present author to re-imagine online distance learning (ODL) environments to provide a greater opportunity for learner engagement.


ODL environments were augmented by video-conferencing to increase dialogue, instructor presence and a sense of instructor care, concern and guidance. The video-conference component was limited time-wise (40 min per weekly module) and aimed at explaining and integrating learning content and activities. The resulting courses were thus augmented and enhanced and not transformed into blended learning courses.


Preliminary feedback from video-conference discussions and learner reflective journals indicates that the innovation was well received by students and contributed significantly to their appreciation, satisfaction and overall engagement.

Practical implications

The augmentation is simple and effective. It may be an approach that is particularly relevant in designing and facilitating ODL environments in an era of uncertainty, disruption and far-reaching educational changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social implications

The author argues that the introduction of an active learning component has significant implications for learner performance, satisfaction and persistence with distance learning programs.


Attempts to increase social presence and engagement are not uncommon in ODL. This particular approach is simple, easily enacted and has a perceived element of originality and innovation that appeals to learners. It is argued that it contributes significant value to the quality and outcomes of the distance learning experience.



Starr-Glass, D. (2020), "Encouraging engagement: video-conference augmentation of online distance learning environments", On the Horizon, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 125-132.



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