“Feel free to ask”: Nudging to promote asking questions in the online classroom

Robert J. Weijers*, Björn B. de Koning, Ester Scholten, L. Y.J. Wong, Fred Paas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Asking questions is vital for learning, yet students seldom exhibit this behavior. Given the increasing presence of online classrooms in tertiary education, it is much needed to examine ways to encourage students to ask questions and increase their engagement. Despite the critical role of asking questions to enhance learning, little is known in research on promoting this behavior. Therefore, in this paper, we empirically tested the effect of nudging – a novel approach in education consisting of subtle interventions to change behavior – in online classrooms in tertiary education on question asking behavior, student engagement, and grades. In Experiment 1 (n = 1011), the teacher's virtual background prompted questions (prompt nudge), while in Experiment 2 (n = 449), the teacher set a goal for the students to ask one question per session (goal-setting nudge). We found a trend towards a positive effect of the prompt nudge on questions, but not on grades. Exploratory analyses revealed this was driven by students who already asked many questions. We found no effect of the goal-setting nudge on any measure, nor any effect in either experiment on student engagement. The findings demonstrate that the prompt nudge can be a possible useful and easy to implement tool to encourage questions in the online classroom.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100931
Number of pages13
JournalInternet and Higher Education
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


This work was supported by the Dutch organization for scientific research (NWO) under Grant 40.5.18540.132.


  • Asking questions
  • Class participation
  • Educational psychology
  • Nudging
  • Online education
  • Student engagement


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