One of the most pressing challenges online teachers face is how to increase student engagement. You want your class members to do more than login and submit assignments when due. How can you raise enthusiasm and make them excited about learning?
Improving student engagement requires a genuine passion for teaching. When you hold class online, you need to work harder to share your excitement. The following eight student-centered activities help you build an atmosphere of trust while raising interest.
1. Start by Making It Personal
Think back to your school experience. How did you react when your teacher passed out the syllabus and began reviewing the requirements? While you may have expected such practices, they didn’t make you feel very welcome.
Instead, open each class with a student-centered activity. You can find tons of icebreaker questions online for the first day and beyond. Some teachers have their learners journal silently, while others may do a think-pair-share. The critical component involves getting your class members active instead of passively receiving instruction.
2. Choose Inclusive Materials
You may not influence the textbook your district issues, but you do exercise full control over supplementary materials. Ensure you include those designed by and featuring individuals in every race, gender, sexual and gender identity, and religious and ethnic background.
Take some time to review your visual aids. While these can attract student interest and help explain ideas, they can also make marginalized groups feel left out. Ask yourself whether any of the characters depicted have different skin tones or wear a hijab.
3. Provide Access to Resources
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted income inequality in America. While students with means struggled with things like getting started minus the school bell, impoverished learners found themselves without the computers and internet access required for switching to at-home learning.
You can’t improve student engagement if some class members lack the tools to succeed. Include links to free resources in your communications to parents. Include this list in your monthly newsletter, not only in your first-day correspondence. People’s economic situations continue to change, and those who don’t need help today might require it tomorrow.
4. Encourage Webcam Use
Please turn on your webcam so that your students can see your smiling face and encourage your students to do the same. You can tell a lot from facial expressions. Plus, it creates a feeling of connectedness.
If your district prohibits you from requiring webcam use, get creative in bringing kids out of their shells. For example, you can have a spirit day or week where you encourage everyone to wear a silly costume — they need to turn on their cam to show it off.
5. Work Your Discussion Board
Your classroom discussion board can increase student engagement in the virtual classroom if you make it an integral part of the educational experience. Students can tell if you treat it like “fluff,” and they will match their efforts accordingly. Hello, boring board.
Require students to write thoughtful responses to their classmates as part of their grade instead of only counting original replies. Spend time reviewing “netiquette” and how to challenge ideas without resorting to personal insults. Model appropriate behavior by writing replies beyond “great point” — ask probing questions to get students to reflect more deeply.
6. Use Cooperative Learning
You can use cooperative learning in the virtual classroom. It’s less cumbersome to collaborate in some ways — if a student is absent, they can log in at another time to complete their portion of a group task.
You can use Google Drive to organize group projects and assign students roles — including whether they can view, comment on, or edit assignments. The auto-save feature prevents frustrating data loss, and you can use Hangouts to moderate real-time conversations.
7. Give Students Ownership
A time-tested method for increasing student engagement is to give them ownership over their learning experience. How does this principle look in action?
When it comes to evaluation time, you can give students options that best engage their learning styles. Some students might write an essay, while others build a model or create a brief how-to video. Other ideas include letting students submit discussion questions and choosing from several novels instead of reading the same one as all their classmates.
8. Evaluate Process, Not Only Product
Imagine two people standing on the starting line of a 100-yard dash. If some of the participants need crutches, what happens if only the winner gets recognition? The others feel discouraged and might give up — not attitudes that foster student engagement.
Ensure your grading schema includes points for effort during the learning process, not only a letter grade reflecting the final product. If a student pours their heart and soul into a project, recognize that effort when assigning a score. You may need to design four or five versions of a test, for example, but if doing so encourages your learners to keep trying, it’s worth the extra work.
Improve Student Engagement in Remote Learning With These Eight Tips
Improving student engagement in remote learning environments continues to challenge educators. The eight tips above can help you create a classroom that your learners look forward to attending.