5 Activity Types to Increase Student Engagement in Online Classes

In the modern world of education, educators have to constantly innovate and look for ways to create an engaging learning experience. Coming up with engaging learning activities can be time-consuming, but figuring out how to redesign traditional classroom activities to translate into an online or hybrid setting is even more challenging. A great way to enrich your current activities and increase engagement outside of the classroom is to incorporate peer-to-peer learning.

In this blog, we will be taking you through learning activities that can be facilitated in an online classroom using peer assessment.

5 learning activities for online classrooms

There are many learning strategies to make online classrooms more engaging. Adopting these techniques with peer assessment can help build classroom community and allow students to broaden their perspective on a subject.

1. ePortfolios

An ePortfolio is a digital collection of a student's school or course-related work that is meant to showcase learning over time. This enables students to critically assess themselves, reflect, and make connections between their work that helps them become self-motivated autonomous learners. Along with positively contributing to their academic performance 3(Sharma et al., 2016), students can also use their ePortfolio as an addition to their resume as it showcases their skills and how they developed them. 

When ePortfolio activities are done on Kritik, students get the added benefit of peer review in combination with self-reflection, which has been shown to result in deeper learning 2(JISC, n.d.).

2. Elevator Pitches

Elevator pitches are a simple yet engaging way to help students become better communicators. Students learn how to be concise and persuasive, giving them an opportunity to build their confidence and ease their nervousness when delivering elevator pitches in real-world situations. Understanding how to make an effective elevator pitch is a useful skill that every student should know as it helps with networking and in making good impressions. 

With Kritik, students can upload their video submissions and get insights into their peers’ styles to improve their own elevator pitch. Here’s how Dr. Nadia Basir from University of Waterloo used Kritik to run this activity in their entrepreneurship courses

"I use Kritik for students to evaluate their peers when it comes to pitching their businesses…In other years, students were only getting feedback from me, and students love using Kritik because they receive so much personalized feedback." - Dr. Nada Basir 

3. Jigsaw

Jigsaw is a cooperative learning activity that gives students the opportunity to specialize in one aspect of a topic and teach it to their peers. Here’s how you can set up a Jigsaw activity:

  1. Choose a topic that can be divided into multiple segments. There can be as little as 2 segments up to a recommended maximum of 5 or 6.

For example, when learning about the composition of blood, the topic can be divided into: 

  • red blood cells
  • white blood cells
  • Platelets
  • Plasma
  1. Assign students into “home groups” the same size as the number of segments. Each student from the home group will then choose or be assigned a specific aspect to become an “expert” in.
  2. Students will break out of their home groups and form groups with peers that share the same segment as them, creating an “expert group”. Expert groups can work collaboratively to do research, hold discussions, and develop their topic together.
  3. Once each student has gathered enough information on their assigned segment, they return to their “home group” and teach their group members about their topic. 
Jigsaw method steps
Jigsaw Method Steps

To facilitate this activity online, instructors can utilize Kritik's group features and have their students upload videos of themselves teaching a topic. This also allows students to get feedback on the content they’ve gathered and their presentation skills. Professor. Heidi Engelhardt from the University of Waterloo conducted a variation of the Jigsaw activity on Kritik, that not only helped with content retention and comprehension but also taught students active listening and verbal communication skills.

4. Roleplays

Roleplays are a great way for students to apply and demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of a concept. They help prepare students for real world scenarios and are very versatile which allows them to be applied in a large variety of courses. For example, Dr. Ellen Pullins from the University of Toledo uses Kritik in their sales class to facilitate a sales call roleplay. Another great example is Professor. Denice Mendenhall who does patient roleplays in their nursing course on Kritik. Depending on the type of roleplay done, it can teach students important communication skills such as persuasion, negotiation, debate, as well as, teamwork, problem-solving, and empathy.

"The only way to practice interpersonal skills is to have an interpersonal conversation. That’s really where Kritik allowed us to expand our horizons." - Dr. Ellen Pullins

5. Concept mapping

Concept maps are visual depictions of information and can take various forms, such as mind maps, Venn diagrams, flow charts, and tables. Being versatile and easy to make, concept maps come in many forms, and because there are so many options it allows students to be creative and personalize it to create connections between the content that they learn. This form of active learning has proven to be very beneficial as studies have found that those who did concept mapping “performed considerably better in improvement and retention” 1(Collins & Nyenhuis, 2020). 

When concept mapping activities are peer reviewed, students gain the perspective of their peers and realize connections between the course content that they have not considered.

Get creative in the classroom with Kritik!

Online learning activities can be just as engaging as in-person ones, opening a plethora of opportunities to innovate and reimagine your course. Kritik users enjoy the benefit of peer assessment which provides a multitude of benefits in the classroom. For tips on implementing these activities in your classroom, book a demo or a meeting with our instructional designer!


1Collins, B., & Nyenhuis, R. (2020, June). The effectiveness of concept maps for students' learning and retention. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15512169.2020.1775090?journalCode=upse20 

2JISC. (n.d.). Student self reflection. Jisc. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from https://www.jisc.ac.uk

3Sharma, R., Jain, A., Gupta, N., Garg, S., Batta, M., & Dhir, S. K. (2016). Impact of self-assessment by students on their learning. International journal of applied & basic medical research, 6(3), 226–229. https://doi.org/10.4103/2229-516X.186961

Sara Chen
Education Researcher