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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Measuring Learner Engagement in Blended and Online Contexts: A Review and Two Case Studies

Curtis Henrie (Brigham Young University, USA)
Lisa R Halverson (Brigham Young University, USA)
Robert Bodily (Brigham Young University, USA)
Daniel Sandberg (Brigham Young University, USA)
Charles R. Graham (Brigham Young University, USA)
Session Information
July 8, 2014 - 3:30pm
Teaching & Learning Effectiveness
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research and Evaluation
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Governor's Square 14
Session Duration: 
50 Minutes
Information Session 2
Virtual Session

We'll explore engagement measurement instruments and methods for studying engagement in blended/online learning contexts. Two real-world case examples will be shared.

Extended Abstract

Engagement has become an important topic in educational research. Research on learner engagement has identified significant correlations with academic achievement (Hughes, Luo, Kwok, & Loyd, 2008; Kuh, Kinzie, Buckley, Bridges, & Hayek, 2007; Ladd & Dinella, 2009; Nystrand & Gamoran, 1991; Skinner, Wellborn, & Connell, 1990), student satisfaction (Filaka & Sheldon, 2008; Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 1997), and persistence (Berger & Milem, 1999; Kuh, Cruce, Shoup, Kinzie, Gonyea, & Gonyea, 2008). As blended and online learning becomes more prevalent, the need to understand how learners engage in these contexts and how to increase learner engagement in these contexts is essential.

How has engagement been studied and measured in online and blended contexts? What are the strengths and weaknesses of those measures? While engagement research taking place in traditional settings has been thoughtfully reviewed (Fredricks et al., 2011), no review has yet been published of learner engagement in online and blended contexts. The purpose of our presentation is to present our findings of a review of the literature on methods used to measure learner engagement in blended and online learning. We searched major educational research databases for literature, identified those that described methods and instruments to measure blended and online learner engagement, and reviewed these publications for trends, strengths, and weaknesses. We also examined our literature collection using Harzing's Publish or Perish software to identify the research in this area that has had the greatest impact.

By completing this review, we have found that a significant number of studies measuring learner engagement do so to evaluate course designs rather than to study engagement itself. Additionally, we found that many studies use end-of-course surveys to measure learner engagement, but a number of researchers have turned to alternative methods to study learner engagement, such as data mining and biometrics. These alternative approaches allow researchers to measure learner engagement without having to disrupt learning or rely on self-report data. Scalability of some of these measures, especially biometrics, presents challenges to researchers. Additionally, many of the alternative measures have yet to connect to the theoretical work done on learner engagement.

In this presentation, we will also discuss our own efforts to measure learner engagement in blended and online learning. In one study, we used DropThought, a feedback service, to gather engagement data from students in both the online and face-to-face portions of a blended class. The DropThought service allowed us to look at student emotional response to both face-to-face and online learning activities. This data will be compared to log data obtained from the learning management system, as well as engagement and learner characteristic data gathered through surveys. In another study, we examined learner engagement with online videos by searching for patterns in mouse tracking data and engagement surveys. We report on our findings of patterns and differences that exist in the data from these studies, how useful the instruments were in studying learner engagement, and next steps for future research.

Our presentation will help researchers identify which approaches have been used to study learner engagement in blended and online learning, which approaches have had the greatest impact on research, and what gaps may exist in being able to study learner engagement in blended and online contexts. Our presentation will consist of a mix of slideshow presentation, large group discussion, and question and answer session. We will make the presentation slideshow available on the conference website.


Berger, J. B., & Milem, J. F. (1999). The role of student involvement and perceptions of integration in a causal model of student persistence. Research in Higher Education, 40(6), 641-664. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A%3A1018708813711

Filaka, V. F., & Sheldon, K. M. (2008). Teacher support, student motivation, student need satisfaction, and college teacher course evaluations: testing a sequential path model. Educational Psychology, 28(6), 711-724. doi:10.1080/01443410802337794

Fredricks, J., McColskey, W., Meli, J., Mordica, J., Montrosse, B., & Mooney, K. (2011). Measuring student engagement in upper elementary through high school: A description of 21 instruments. Issues & Answers (Vol. REL 2011). Retrieved from http://www.talkgroups-mentors.org/pdfs/research/2011 Student Engagement UNC.pdf

Hughes, J. N., Luo, W., Kwok, O.-M., & Loyd, L. K. (2008). Teacher-student support,
effortful engagement, and achievement: A 3-year longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(1), 1-14. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.100.1.1

Kuh, G. D., Cruce, T. M., Shoup, R., Kinzie, J., Gonyea, R. M., & Gonyea, M. (2008).
Unmasking the effects of student on first-year college engagement grades and persistence. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(5), 540-563.

Ladd, G. W., & Dinella, L. M. (2009). Continuity and change in early school engagement:
Predictive of children's achievement trajectories from first to eighth grade? Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(1), 190-206. doi:10.1037/a0013153

Nystrand, M., & Gamoran, A. (1991). Instructional discourse, student engagement, and
literature achievement. Research in the Teaching of English, 25(3), 261-290. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/40171413

Skinner, E. A., Wellborn, J. G., & Connell, J. P. (1990). What it takes to do well in school
and whether I've got it: A process model of perceived control and children's engagement and achievement in school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(1), 22-32. doi:10.1037//0022-0663.82.1.22

Zimmerman, B. J., & Kitsantas, A. (1997). Developmental phases in self-regulation:
Shifting from process goals to outcome goals. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(1), 29-36. doi:10.1037//0022-0663.89.1.29

Lead Presenter

Curtis Henrie is a graduate student at Brigham Young University, completing a doctoral degree in Instructional Psychology and Technology. His research interests are in designing engaging instruction for blended and online learning, as well as using learning analytics as a research method to study learning and evaluate designs.

Email: curtis.r.henrie@gmail.com
Website: https://sites.google.com/site/curtisrhenrie/