Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and student learning being largely moved to virtual mode, one of the biggest challenges that most of the higher-end institutions face is getting students to engage and participate during remote learning.
Learning through digital platforms can soon get frustrating for students as it can create added communication barriers by making it hard to know when to talk, variability in access to technology, and other similar factors.
This blog discusses some of the proven strategies educators can use to engage students in online classrooms.
1. Use multiple formats
One of the excellent ways to ensure student engagement in online learning is using multiple formats to make virtual classes more interesting for learners. Since there are various ways to establish communication with students, these formats, such as discussion forums and course email, can be instrumental in making students interested in the lessons.
Apart from these, there is a range of other formats that you can leverage including embedded video and audio, broadcast text message systems, chat rooms for messaging, and home page announcements. Explanatory screencast videos are another popular format that is not only easy, inexpensive to create and share but also received well by higher ed students.
2. Adopt a flexible approach to student participation in the classroom
Adequately preparing for flexible timing for student assessment and discontinuing traditional long lectures is another way to engage your students in online learning. You can also opt for asynchronous activities, offer additional time for completing evaluations/exams as and when necessary, and give priority to project-based assignments to be able to promote asynchronous participation among students.
Apart from this, to encourage students to participate in class more and stay engaged, it is also important to create online lessons that are interactive as they help increase learners’ energy, thus promoting collaboration and improving communication skills. Educators can create such interactive virtual lessons by gamifying course materials (explained later), planning hands-on experiments for them, inviting learners to give their comments on content, or creating immersive videos to explain the concepts.
3. Engaging students with gamification
Gamification or the use of various elements of game design techniques are another excellent way to keep learners engaged and motivated. You can do this by implementing multiple elements such as points, badges, and more in your courses to ensure complete student engagement in online learning.
Gamifying the different course activities in higher Ed also give students a sense of accomplishment and progress when they accumulate points as they go through the course. To make it more engaging, you can even put up a chart or leaderboard to let students see their performance or rank as compared to their peers.
4. Choose appropriate digital technologies
Another way to engage students in online learning is by choosing appropriate digital technologies which are supported by the respective university or institutional department.
Further, it is important to use these digital technologies available for students in varied time zones and international contexts. To make it interesting for students, it is best to choose tools that include various accessibility features such as high-contrast themes, text-to-speech, closed captioning, enlarged cursors, alternative text, and keyboard shortcuts.
5. Offer regular feedback
When learning virtually, it becomes very important for students to know what they are learning, how they are approaching different teaching methods, what are their doubts, etc. All this is possible only by giving them feedback regularly. Doing this not only ensures student engagement in online learning but also keeps them on track and adequately prepares them for the next assignment.
Without consistent feedback, it can get quite difficult to engage students in the next project or assignment as they will never know how they fared in the previous one. Apart from this, offering them self-assessment opportunities where they get to grade their own discussion or offer input for their own work can also work wonders in motivating them and getting them excited for the online classes.
6. Use asynchronous tools wherever possible
To let the students reflect more on their contributions and remain engaged in virtual learning, it is ideal to have students participate asynchronously. This also helps them to work on their written communication skills and gives you the advantage of low bandwidth requirements for discussion boards as compared to live video tools.
To do this efficiently, you can get students to participate in activities such as sharing annotations on readings, engaging in peer review, or using live chat/ live office hours, offering a way to connect with individual students synchronously.
7. Use visual aids to keep students engaged
Similar to a physical classroom setting, visual aids are essential in a virtual course environment as well. They ensure to make online lessons much more effective and easily understandable.
Research also suggests that a learner is more likely to remember the lesson that includes a visual graphic as compared to plain text by itself. It could be anything like a video, graph, photograph, slideshow, or model. Including these visual aids in online lessons can be instrumental in making difficult concepts simpler to digest, enhance retention, and also keep students more engaged.
8. Keep testing their knowledge to enhance engagement
Online or virtual learning often makes it difficult for instructors to assess students’ understanding of course materials accurately. Graded curriculums, on the contrary, can allow educators to gauge whether learners have successfully processed the content and allow both instructors and students to quantify their progress.
Some of the ways to improve students’ learning and retention include pop quizzes to ensure their understanding of new concepts. Instructors can also use live polls to increase student engagement as these polls help to check students’ understanding of content and also gather feedback regarding different subjects.
Whether face-to-face or virtual, the classroom is a very dynamic space bustling with new activities and creative ideas. This makes it important for educators, especially in higher education, to vary the format of instruction through various thoughtfully designed engagement strategies.
The strategies discussed above allow you to ensure not only complete student engagement in online learning but also promote various opportunities for enhanced learning and social engagement. If implemented well, these methods can support student learning by increasing their motivation as well as engagement to learn and allow them to better connect to content by utilizing higher-level thinking strategies.