As an instructor, you plan your sessions and structure your course with a thoughtful eye towards making the best use of the time. Sometimes, no matter what you plan for, the unexpected can happen. Here are some helpful ways to troubleshoot situations that may arise.
A guest lecturer/speaker is a no-show for a live session.
Regardless of how many times you confirm a guest for your course, there is a chance they will be a no-show. If this occurs, there's no need to panic!
Use this as an opportunity to connect with students through an open Q&A session, allowing students to ask anything regarding the course, the project(s), or the content.
Develop backup content that you can have on-hand as a plan B, C or D--perhaps this is content that doesn't fit within the time allotted for the course, or additional bonus content on the course topic that would benefit students.
Record all guest speakers and develop a library of videos for students. There is nothing more useful than a resource bank that students can dip into when there is free course time, or on their own time.
A student does not demonstrate investment in the course.
Set community guidelines, ground rules or participation norms. What is important to you for how members of the course community interact? Consider listing your community guidelines within your syllabus, articulating it in a welcome email to the cohort, or speaking to it on the first day.
Provide "Pro tips: how to get the most out of this course." Give a shortlist of how students can be most successful with the course. Tips might include: come prepared with questions on the content; be actively involved in group project discussions and follow up work, providing at least one comment/question per session; if it is a full-time commitment course, recommend students take off time from their full time jobs.
List clear expectations on your Course Landing Page. What types of learning interactions will be the norm in your course? If it is based on a project or group work, explicitly state the course is project-based and requires active participation and group discussion on a regular basis. If it is largely a knowledge transfer course, outline that students are expected to absorb information and apply it.
Have a screening question within your application. For example, if your course is group project based, make that a callout on the application--Are you prepared to provide ideas, vocalize thoughts, and ask questions during all group sessions?
The same students are consistently participating.
If you have set clear expectations, provided community guidelines, and are experiencing a lack of engagement, then reinforcing good behavior of students by celebrating those who are participating is a powerful way to trigger engagement. Students are influenced by seeing peers do well!