Virtual classes, online classrooms, and digital learning are the new normal for millions of students across the world as schools shift their learning platforms to the online space.
While the online space offers the students numerous benefits such as new tools of learning, the flexibility to learn, and new collaborative learning experiences, the transition can be challenging for both the teachers and the students.
On one hand, the teachers need to make extra effort and find new ways to engage students effectively. On the other hand, students need to put in extra effort to stay engaged, especially because of the distractions and interruptions at home.
Delivering enagging online learning experince is vital to the success of the student because when students are actively engaged in the learning process, they learn better, understand the content more deeply, and are able to retain the material for a longer time.
But that is easier said than done.
Teachers and trainers find that it is not easy to engage students in an online classroom using the same engagement techniques used in a traditional classroom. In an online learning experience, the teachers have to deal with newer and often more challenging issues from screen fatigue and internet disruptions to simply bored and isolated students.
In this article, we will look at a few tips to help you create an engaging online learning experience for your students:
1. Communicate Classroom Expectations
Often, instructors teach in the online setting the way they taught in a face-to-face setting. This means that they use similar instructional strategies. However, for most students, the online classroom is a new experience. It is therefore important for the teachers to set up classroom expectations from the beginning. This can include guidelines on online behaviour, camera and mic etiquette, asking questions.
TIPS: At the beginning of the semester or even each month the teacher can introduce the class schedule and syllabus, assignment schedule and update the students about the online tools that will be used. This is a great way to get the students excited and engaged from the very beginning as it helps eliminate the uncertainty.
2. Encourage The Use Of Various Digital Tools For Learning
In a traditional face-to-face classroom, the students depend on the teacher as the sole custodian of information. But this changes in an online classroom experience. So, rather than just sharing the learning material, in an online classroom, the teachers should encourage the students to explore and use various tool for better learning and engagement. Online education provides students with multiple avenues for learning. The use of these various tools ensures delivery diversity. It keeps the learner excited and engaged the students to work with learning tools that appeal to their learning styles.
TIPS: Digital tools that can be used in the classroom include Youtube Tutorials, Videos, Podcasts, Games, Slides, Online Galleries, Surveys – the list can be endless.
3. Use Digital Story Telling As A Teaching Technique
For time immemorial, stories have fascinated us, intrigued us and engaged us. Using storytelling in the classroom does not mean that the teacher has to use literal stories. Research has proven that a digital story can engage students’ visual and auditory senses in a way that the written word alone cannot. In an online classroom, digital storytelling is a process of creating a story on a given subject by adding several multimedia elements such as visual, audio and music to a scenario text in general.
TIPS: The teachers can also being storytelling into the classroom using video illustrations, case studies and audio stories to keep the students interested and engaged.
4. Create A Community In The Classroom
One of the main reasons for disengaged students in the classroom is the feeling of isolation. Creating a feeling that the students belong to a community of learners helps improving classroom retention and learning. This can be done by promoting active communication between students and instructors as well as fostering informal student interaction through social media, study groups, online chats, email. These informal student networks enable online students to form close ties with fellow students.
TIPS: Some other forms of communication to help foster student-teacher and peer interaction include – chat rooms or instant messaging, broadcast text messaging, social media groups etc.
5. Opportunities To Collaborate
Online teaching has also helped the teachers understand that student collaboration is the hallmark of a great teaching and learning environments with high student engagement. Studies have shown that online collaborative learning helps improve student engagement and academic performance.
TIPS: These collaborative opportunities could include group projects, group essays, group presentation where students do their research and then bring them back together in small discussion groups or video calls to share their individual learning. This also helps to develop a greater understanding of the concept.
Another great technique is to encourage students to work together in pairs to analyze a topic and then share their understanding with the rest of the class. This method works for students who may feel lost in a large group discussion. Other collaborative tools for an engaged classroom include Google slide, surveys, breakout room discussions among others.
6. Use Of Digital Motivators
The use of motivators like digital certificates, badges and points is a great way to keep the students engaged. It helps to motivate learners during the course. They also serve as a reminder to the students that their small classroom inputs or timely assignment submissions are being observed and appreciated. These digital motivators give the students a sense of purpose that fuels their classroom participation and engagement
TIPS: For instance, the teacher can create badges for the most questions asked, the most participation in class discussion etc.
The transition from a face-to-face classroom to an online video conference is challenging for the students and especially the teachers who must make extra effort to engage students. This calls for the use of new teaching tools and techniques that will appeal to the students using screens to learn in isolation. While this is challenging, with the right teaching tools, it can also help the students stay motivated and learn better faster and retain the information for longer.
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