Back in the day, students had to wake up early and catch a bus to earn an education. These days, they simply roll out of bed and log on to a computer. It’s not necessarily easier. It’s just different.
With these differences come new challenges. For example, it’s extremely difficult for many students to engage with virtual classroom settings. If you’re an online teacher, you know what we’re talking about.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to ensure your class engages with and learns something from your lessons. Keep on reading to discover seven student engagement strategies you can use to improve your teaching abilities.
What is Student Engagement?
Student engagement refers to the level of interest a student shows in the learning process. Highly engaged students will be attentive, curious, and motivated to understand new concepts that will further their education.
It’s never been easy to engage students — even in traditional classroom settings. But virtual learning environments make it even more difficult. This is because virtual classrooms offer a greater possibility of distraction and often leave students feeling isolated.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to keep your students engaged in your online lessons. Let’s talk about a few of them!
7 Student Engagement Strategies
According to the University of Washington, “engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills, and promotes meaningful learning experiences”.
The question is how do you boost student engagement in a virtual classroom setting? The seven strategies outlined below will help.
1. Create Interesting Lesson Plans (Concise)
Student engagement starts with a quality lesson plan. You can’t expect students to engage in your teachings if the material is boring or presented in a boring way.
So, take the time to dig deep into the topic you’re teaching. Mine it for interesting facts, stories, and statistics you can share with your class. Then logically teach the information. One of the best ways to do this is to use a mind mapping tool like Mindomo.
Start with your main topic. Then list every subtopic you plan to cover and fill them in with interesting information to share. Once all your ideas are cataloged, you can rearrange them so that each subtopic flows into the next one.
Here’s an example of a mind map:
When creating your lesson plan, make sure you keep it concise. Student attention spans have never been shorter — especially when learning online. The shorter your classes are, the better chance your students have of engaging in your lesson and retaining the information.
2. Host Two-Way Virtual Classes
There are two virtual class types: one-way and two-way streams. One-way streams broadcast teachers to students, but students remain off-camera. Two-way streams allow all attendees to appear on video and interact with each other in real-time.
Two-way virtual classes are much more engaging and will allow for student participation. They also help alleviate feelings of isolation and minimize distraction opportunities.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that will allow you to host two-way virtual classes on a budget. For example, ClickMeeting is a popular video conferencing software that enables educators to host two-way virtual classes for up to 25 students.
3. Allow Time for Socialization
Students, like just about everyone else, crave human interaction. It can be difficult to achieve this when attending virtual classes. That’s why the top online educators give their students time to socialize before and/or after classes start.
The easiest way to promote socialization is to start lessons with an icebreaker game. You know – something fun and engaging that helps students enjoy the time they spend learning.
For example, you could use the polling feature in your virtual conferencing software to ask your students trivia questions. The student who gets the most right becomes the champion. As a reward, they’re allowed to choose the topic for the next lesson’s trivia questions.
4. Encourage Student Participation
The BEST way to engage your students in your virtual classes is to encourage participation. How? It’s simple: ask them questions!
Video conferencing tools like ClickMeeting offer polls, surveys, and in-classroom chat. These features make it easy for teachers to query their students. They also give students a way to “raise their hand” in class and ask teachers the questions they have.
Another way to encourage student participation, and therefore student engagement, is to include a number of visuals in your lessons.
Charts, graphs, and YouTube videos are more interesting than plain texts and easier to comprehend. Because of this, your students will feel more comfortable asking questions and expressing their opinions when visual aids are used.
5. Provide Student Collaboration Opportunities
Looking for additional ways to encourage student participation and boost engagement? Then give them opportunities to collaborate with each other.
This can be done by assigning class projects. Or by accessing your video conference software’s breakout rooms feature, so students can discuss your teachings in small groups.
When students collaborate, they’re exposed to new ideas that may challenge their own. This will force them to consider concepts from different angles. They’ll also have the chance to build relationships with others and fight against feelings of loneliness.
Lastly, the collaboration will motivate students to work harder. After all, nobody wants to be the reason a classmate fails an important assignment.
6. Give Individualized Attention When Necessary
Every student is different. As such, some of them will grasp concepts quicker than others. Keep this in mind and use the tools at your disposal to help level the playing field.
For example, you can use the breakout rooms feature mentioned above to tutor students in one-on-one situations. Or you can set aside time after each lesson to address additional questions your students may have. If necessary, consider offering private lesson times, too.
The point is virtual learning will allow you to give individualized attention to each student — just like in a traditional classroom. You just need to learn how to use technology to properly navigate these kinds of scenarios.
7. Ask Your Students for Feedback
Our final student engagement strategy is a simple one: ask your students for feedback. Do they enjoy your virtual lessons? How do they think you could improve?
Just remember that many students will feel uncomfortable “grading” you. So, it might be best to ask these sorts of questions via an anonymous survey. This will allow them to share their true thoughts and opinions without fear of incurring your wrath.
I suggest asking questions like:
- Do you enjoy my lessons?
- What types of assignments do you like doing most?
- Are there any concepts that you’re having trouble understanding?
- What would make my lessons easier to understand and/or better?
- What would you like to see changed about our virtual classroom?
Engage Your Students
Student engagement is possible in virtual classroom settings. As a teacher, you just need to adopt the strategies I outlined in this article. Once you do, your students will connect with your lessons on a much deeper level and enjoy them. Imagine!
Jakub Zielinski is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist at ClickMeeting, a popular webinar and video conferencing platform for educators, marketing teams, and event planners.