Teaching is a daunting task even under normal circumstances. Getting students to actively participate while in an in-person classroom can be quite challenging. This gets even more difficult when it comes to online sessions. Digital platforms, while being a boon in certain circumstances, also come with the added burden of creating communication barriers. Difficulties that can arise as a result include making it hard for students to figure out when to talk or ask a question. It can also hinder live interactions due to reasons such as a poor internet connection or other technical issues. Students attending the online sessions need to be self-motivated and disciplined enough to be able to complete their tasks in isolation. When faced with such situations, quite a few students find it easier to give up than making an effort to plow on. Coming up with a strategic plan well ahead of class can help you get around all these issues and foster more student engagement. Let’s see how you can do this.
Ways of Enhancing Student Engagement
If students are involved in the class, they are likely to enjoy the process of learning and feel encouraged to complete the course. The following are some ideas that can increase and ensure student engagement in your online classes:
- Set expectations at the start – Get in touch with your students before the course actually starts. You could send out an introductory email and share relevant information such as information on accessing course materials, any technical specifications that might be required to access the digital platform, and other such details. Let the students know what is expected of them and how they can work towards achieving those goals.
- Provide varied content – Using only textbooks and prescribed course material can make students lose interest. Help them gain a broader perspective on the subject matter through other publications and multimedia sources.
- Introduce interactive sessions – During each class, set aside some time for an interaction with your students. Ask them about any clarifications they might need about the day’s session. You could also come up with discussion forums and debates to foster more interaction and active participation of all attendees.
- Address individually – Just as you would in a regular classroom, ask questions of your students individually. Refer to them by name and ask questions of them for one of the most effective ways of engaging students.
- Encourage active learning – Even if they are not able to attend classes physically, there are other ways in which they can pursue hands-on learning. You could give assignments that need students to interview people or conduct surveys. Case studies and group projects that involve coordinating with fellow students are some other ways of active learning. Here, be sure to delineate responsibilities for each member of the team. You could also ask them to keep you updated on the status of the project with regular virtual meetings. Encourage students to support each other in learning and to share resources. This can also help in team-building and dispute resolutions.
- Keep it interesting - You could consider making the switch to a height-adjustable standing desk. This will let you alternate between sitting and standing during class. Standing enables you to use body language at will, in order to encourage the active participation of students in sessions. The Flexispot Height Adjustable Whiteboard Standing Desk is equipped with a dry-erase board and flip tabletop to give you more versatility. This innovative combination of a desk and whiteboard makes it easy for you to illustrate examples and to share methodology with the class whenever required. Moving to a convenient location is a breeze given the four easy-rolling caster wheels. The desk enables quick and smooth adjustments despite the robust and stable build. Additionally, the convenient anti-collision function prevents objects from being crushed or damaged when you adjust the height of the desk.
- Harness social media – Use social media to your advantage and keep students interested. You could create a hashtag or set up a private group on one of the platforms to share updates and relevant information with students. By effectively using social media platforms, you can foster a healthy and thriving relationship between students and teachers. At all times, ensure that the use of social media is in keeping with institutional policy and students are aware of privacy issues and the like.
- Efficient access to learning materials – Students must be able to access their course material as well as assessments and discussions easily on the digital learning platform. You should make it a point to keep all course material organized and clearly labeled so that students can quickly refer to it whenever required. Incorporating checklists for each chapter or module can help students track their progress easily.
- Share feedback frequently – Come up with a means of regularly providing feedback to students on their performance. This could be in the form of timely responses to any email queries or comments on discussion posts. Speedy grading of assignments can also send the message that you want your students to stay on track and make progress swiftly. Ensure your communications in this regard are clear and do not leave any scope for misinterpretation. Make your feedback detailed and retain a positive tone all along.
- Take the help of technology - You could look at making use of automation to track the progress of your students. For instance, if a student wants to move on to the next segment or chapter they could be first asked to complete watching a video. It could also be a quick assessment of the topic with multiple choices or situational questions. This can keep students interested and also help you assess if they are actually learning things.
- Recognize achievements – Online sessions can make everything seem impersonal and disconnected. Students might feel that their achievements are going unappreciated and unnoticed. So, singling out students for their achievements and celebrating them with peers during classes can encourage active participation.
- Creating virtual galleries – In an actual classroom scenario, students would be engaged in projects and activities. They would be given the opportunity to present their ideas to their peers in the form of working models and detailed presentations. You can do something similar in the virtual world. Creating virtual galleries where students share screencasts of their projects and then seek and give feedback is a great way of encouraging active participation. It can also keep things from turning boring.
- Trim down the time – When online classes drag on for a long time, it can make students lose interest. In order to prevent lethargy from setting in, break up your sessions into shorter ones. Space out the teaching into 10 or 15-minute chunks. This will also give students the opportunity to imbibe what they learned and attempt to recall it before continuing with the next part of the session.
- Identify the weak links – It is possible that you have students who are struggling to keep up for various reasons. Shortlist these students and make an effort to identify the issues that are making them fall short in class. It could be because they are not able to grasp the concepts or it could be something commonplace such as irregular access available to a computer and a trouble-free internet connection. Keep checking on these students regularly as even a momentary lapse might be sufficient for them to fall behind once again.
- Inject some fun – Make learning an enjoyable experience with some creativity. You could come up with weekly contests or play a game every fortnight. Things that break the monotony are welcomed by students and help keep them motivated.
- Be flexible – Do not hold back on leniency and flexibility when there is a genuine issue. Grant extensions on assignment submissions if there is a genuine reason. The same goes for assessments and you could offer alternative assessments if the situation truly warrants it. Try to understand your students’ backgrounds and gain insights into their circumstances.
Apart from interpersonal interactions, students need to interact with the subject they are learning. So, make every attempt to help them do this all through the duration of the course. Keeping these tips in mind and using them as and when required will help you enhance student engagement. Finding the right combination of teaching skills, equipment such as standing desks from Flexispot, and an appropriate amount of practice is the key to successfully engaging students during online classes. While virtual classes might seem impersonal, there is no reason for you to make them so. Always remember to bring in a human touch to every class! Apart from giving feedback, make it a point to seek feedback on your effectiveness as a teacher. If students are hesitant about offering feedback upfront, you could devise an anonymous survey or This can help you fine-tune your skills as a teacher.