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One of the most pressing challenges facing schools is how to keep students engaged in distance learning. While COVID-19 remains an issue, expect periodic closures to continue — if you are a teacher, you need to get comfortable with a virtual medium.
How can you keep your learners engaged from afar? Here are nine ways to increase class participation in distance learning and help your students get the most from their educational experience.
1. Get Comfortable With Technology
If you still stumble through Zoom meetings, please consider taking a class to increase your savvy. Your students will start to lose interest if they have to wait for you to reconnect or learn how to do things like share polls.
If you know a colleague who always seems to wow their students with interactive presentations, ask if you can observe their class. You don’t have to be a student-teacher to take advantage of building your skills by modeling others.
2. Take Time to Familiarize Students With Tools
Your students will likewise fail to engage if they don’t feel comfortable using the tools available. It’s okay to use instructional time to go over the use of technology.
What if you notice students that frequently fail to attend live sessions or don’t speak up when they do? Why not reach out to them individually? You might find that 15 minutes of one-on-one coaching in using classroom technology is all they need to start raising their virtual hand and taking part.
3. Create a Warm, Inviting Online Classroom
Like a traditional classroom, you want to create a nurturing environment in your online version. Even though you are apart, you can still model appropriate behavior and make students feel welcome.
Why not put together a Prezi presentation on how your students should work in cooperative learning groups instead of leaving them to their devices to assign roles and responsibilities? Use those first few minutes as everyone signs in to get to know your students better. Invite them to share a boring fact about themselves — such a request eliminates the pressure to imagine something interesting or “cool.”
4. Reach Out to Parents
Parental involvement is vital to keeping students engaged in distance learning. Ensure that you collect and update phone numbers and email addresses at the beginning of each semester to stay in touch.
Also, continue holding parent-teacher conferences. With the flexibility online learning provides, you can meet with folks who work second or third shift during the day, helping you connect with those who find attending after-school events problematic.
5. Encourage Collaborative Learning
Please consider harnessing the power of tools like Google Drive and Dropbox to encourage collaborative learning. Many students still learn best while working as part of a team.
Any teacher who assigns essays as homework can use techniques like peer review to help students learn from their classmates and vice versa. Many online classrooms also enable you to create breakout rooms where small groups can discuss issues before presenting their ideas to the group.
6. Provide Students With Resources
Unfortunately, not all students enjoy the same access to resources. Those who live in poverty might struggle to keep internet access or have a computer to use.
While supplies continue to dwindle, many organizations offer free resources to online learners — provide a list along with your syllabus. Parents appreciate knowing where they can turn if they can’t pay their internet bills or afford a new computer.
Please encourage your students to share any resources they find as well. One way to increase engagement is to create a master classroom list that lets everyone add materials.
7. Maintain Regular Office Hours
Your students need to know how to reach you. Fortunately, tools like Google Voice enable you to set up a dedicated classroom phone number, but you probably don’t want to field calls at midnight.
Post your office hours prominently in your syllabus and remind students of your availability during live classes. Encourage them to buy a planner and set appointments with you if they need individualized help.
8. Give Students Ownership
Think about the way you work. You probably relish those assignments where you exercise freedom more than tasks where you feel micromanaged. Your students react similarly.
Give them ownership in their learning experience. Instead of insisting that each student write a 500-word essay, let them build a model or perform a skit. That way, students with a kinesthetic learning style can flourish, as well as those who are visual learners.
9. Reward Class Participation
Do you give students points for participating in class? If not, doing so is one of the least stressful ways to encourage engagement in distance learning.
Everyone has outside responsibilities like doctor’s appointments that may lead to the occasional missed class. Still, it’s okay to require students to attend at least 70% to 80% of their live online sessions unless your district prohibits such requirements. Students earn credit by adding to the class discussion with appropriate questions and comments.
Keep Students Engaged in Distance Learning With These 9 Tips
It’s challenging to keep students engaged in distance learning. However, with the nine tips above, you can encourage your learners to attend and get the most out of their online educational experience.