Increasing student engagement in online classrooms

Rajiv Bansal, Director- Operations, Global Indian International School (GIIS), India

Rajiv BansalThe ongoing global pandemic has changed the way we work, shop, study, and interact. It has turned our world upside down, yet there has also been an upside to it when it comes to the education sector. When schools entered the worldwide pandemic, they were required to adapt which meant moving away from traditional classroom learning to e-learning. Though e-learning has been around for a while, the pandemic made school administrations realise it would be in demand in the future as well and focused on online learning as a part of teaching.

However, even with its many advantages, there can be a few challenges to online learning. The main being, how to keep students engaged during an online session, Infact, active learning plays a pivotal role in doing so. This approach involves some students participating in class, followed by individual work, through which they tend to learn by doing. The teaching methods can range from simple, short activities such as problem-solving, and paired discussions, to longer, more involved activities or pedagogical frameworks such as role-plays, and structured team-based learning. Participating in such activities has numerous benefits, including improved critical thinking skills, increased retention and transfer of new information, increased motivation, and improved interpersonal skills, among others.

A lack of a face-to-face teaching atmosphere and a variety of distractions an arm’s length away can result in students tuning out without being noticed. However, this is a problem that can be easily solved with a few tips and suggestions on how to enhance student engagement during an online learning session.

Give a personal touch

The transition from traditional to online classrooms also requires a transition from traditional to online learning and study habits for students. To make this move a smooth one, instructors and teachers can create videos where they give clear guidelines, the introduction of the course material, share informative links on relevant topics, expectations, setting up a discussion board or chat thread that can continue after classes, and convince the students that even though it may be an online class, they are always available with a virtual ‘open-door’ policy or a regularly scheduled hour for queries, issues and any other problems the students may face, thus increasing their confidence and motivation to learn.

Communicate with students

Instructors should ensure that students are actively taking part and are not passive participants in an online session. To enhance engagement, instructors must keep the communication two-way and ask the students to talk about what they are learning, offer their understanding of the concept, and apply it to some of their daily activities. This not only makes the lesson more interesting and engaging but also makes the students feel involved and heard. Students will feel motivated and confident to interact with the content if they feel that their opinions and ideas are valued.

Review and renew

Review and feedback are always important to ensure and achieve a clear goal for progressive growth in a students’ academic chart. In online classes, this can be done by having students break up into small groups or individually to share their work and understanding with the entire classroom. This results in authentic feedback while also opening up different aspects of understanding for their classmates. As students see their progress through genuine feedback, this also leads to increased engagement. The review and feedback from their classmates and teachers help them reflect on their goals going further.

Celebrate progress

Acknowledging and appreciating a student’s contribution and learning helps them feel more validated and motivated to be active participants in every class. Celebrating achievements no matter how big or small can help a student feel involved and encourage them to connect with their teachers and classmates, participate in class discussions, share their work with pride, and most importantly, become more engaged.

When it comes to online learning, teachers and instructors must strive to make online classrooms a space that supports student learning and enhances student engagement and eventually the learning outcomes. While this can seem challenging, there are also so many opportunities to make online learning as student-centered as possible.

Also read: New classrooms of the future

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