irtual classrooms have now been accepted as the “new normal” in teaching and learning, especially after the COVID-19 outbreak. This tectonic shift in the education system by major universities and higher education institutions has achieved considerable success.
But with the benefits of flexible learning, come a set of challenges. The biggest one being how to keep the students engaged, alert, and willing to interact.
Capturing students’ attention and keeping them engaged is always challenging, but it has become all the more tricky with the virtual setup.
Read along the following online teaching strategies to improve the learning potential of students.
What is student engagement?
Student engagement measures the level of interest, degree of attention, participation, and willingness to learn shown by students during a class. It creates motivation and progress in education. In any learning environment, student engagement can be categorised into three types:
- Emotional – Feeling connected with teachers and classmates, interacting positively, and staying alert at all times.
- Behavioural – Active participation, following the instructions and completing the work assignments on time.
- Cognitive – Intellectual engagement where learning takes place. It makes students think, understand, ask challenging questions, and learn progressively.
Strategies to boost student engagement
Presenting the best strategies that can improve and ensure higher student engagement in your online classes:
1. Online classroom decorum
Advice students to maintain decorum in a virtual class, with a proper place to sit, away from all distractions. Choose a virtual platform that offers a structured classroom environment with two-way communication. Students should be able to mute/unmute themselves, raise a query or initiate a chat during a class. The audio and video should be of high quality.
Language of interaction should not be rude and discouraging. It should give opportunities to all students alike, to ask questions and verify their understanding.
If some individuals have missed or not understood a concept, plan a separate session for them.
2. Use the right tech platform
Using the right platform helps improve student participation through real time communication and access to information. Select a platform that is feature packed for better communication, interaction and engagement. In today’s fast paced world, students expect to be constantly connected and want immediate reactions and responses. Online learning should be active learning with features like raise-hand, surveys, Q&As, and reactions through emojis.
As a teacher, if you can leverage the features of the virtual platform, you can improve the communication and engagement multifold. Share links of online study materials in the chat box and include articles, PPTs, videos, etc. to help students understand and grasp concepts better.
3. Communicate in several formats
Explore and utilise multiple options for online teaching and learning. You can arrange discussion forums, share recorded audios or videos, attach large documents in emails, etc.
Explanatory screencast videos are simple to create and can be accessed easily by students at a convenient time. Formats should not be complicated for users to understand.
4. Interactive learning
Online classes should not mean that students just sit around and attend a class passively. It should be more interactive. Therefore design a course to engage online learners, to get them speaking, raising hands and actively participating and learning.
University students can be given various tasks for active learning or “hands-on learning,” where they perform a survey after gathering data, do a group discussion, conduct interviews, case study, analyse data etc.
5. Gamify with badges and rewards
Gamification is a way to add game elements to add some fun to an online classroom through digital design techniques. The simplest one can be to add badges to recognise student accomplishments and certify them as a student of the week. It is a great way to provide encouragement and improve student performance and engagement.
6. Give timely feedback
Along with studies, feedback should also be ongoing, consistent, and timely. Feedback is an opportunity for students to know where they are lacking and improve over time. When the feedback is not timely, students tend to get disengaged and unmotivated.
Make it a practice to build regular and accurate feedback loops to stream with the teaching practices. A detailed, accurate, and positive feedback is always more effective than unclear praise or pointers.
7. Project-based learning
Project-based learning creates an engaging environment for students, as they are doing something on their own, grouped with other classmates. The sense of responsibility creates a challenge to their learning potential, and students end up putting that extra effort to achieve targets.
A time-based project, where students are required to interact and present a solution helps to develop multiple skills, critical thinking, and more importantly, engagement.
8. Active learning
Active learning is a method to engage students creatively through video call or chat groups. Perform activities in class that encourage discussion of the problem and interaction with classmates. Add some procedures in a regular class, for example:
Quiz or Interview– form groups of students, and organise Q&A sessions once a lesson is completed. It can be made interesting, like a quiz, asking questions related to lessons taught.
Office Hours– During teaching or after completion of a topic, take a pause and allow the students to clear any doubts or questions on the units completed.