Evans, Steele, Robertson & Dyer

Personalizing Post Titles in the Online Classroom: A Best Practice?

Shelley Evans, Grand Canyon University
John Steele, Grand Canyon University
Sarah Robertson, Grand Canyon University
Thomas Dyer, Grand Canyon University


The need for student engagement is ever present in the online classroom as engaged students are more likely to feel connected with course material, classmates, instructors, and their university (Drouin & Vartanian, 2010; Wilson & Gore, 2013). According to Tayebinik and Puteh (2013), engaged students often achieve higher final scores in the class. Past studies have revealed personalized instruction can increase student learning and engagement and that student participation can be an indicator of said engagement (Clark & Mayer, 2011; Tinto, 2012). In the online classroom student participation is often revealed through written posts and responses to classmates and teachers within weekly discussion forums (Epp, Green, Rahman, & Weaver, 2010; Nagel, Blignaut, & Cronje, 2009). Small changes in how the instructor personalizes their discussion forum responses may make a difference in student participation, yet little research has been conducted to determine if a difference exists. This study was conducted to determine if there is a difference in the quantity of student posts on an online discussion forum when instructors used personalized versus nonpersonalized subject headings. A paired samples t-test revealed a significant difference between the average number of student posts for each instructor’s courses with and without personalized discussion post headings. Results suggest students have a higher quantity of posts when nonpersonalized subject headings are used for instructor-generated discussion posts. Further research is needed to determine potential confounding factors and implications for these results.


teaching presence, personalization, online education, student engagement

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