It can be challenging for students to transition to online learning. One of the biggest barriers is engagement. While online learning can certainly be as effective as face-to-face teaching (and sometimes even more effective), moving to a virtual model should involve more than prerecording lectures or replicating in-class activities with web conferencing. You must design online learning experiences that keep students continuously connected, involved, and engaged.
This blog post outlines four tips that can help boost student engagement in online learning.
1. Develop a Clear Communication Plan
Communication is fundamental to facilitating engagement online. Harness your technology by using different avenues, such as:
- Email: Allow for personal and private conversations between yourself and specific students. This is particularly useful for setting up appointments or answering questions.
- Virtual office hours: One-on-one or group sessions let students request additional feedback regarding assignments and ask for clarification.
- Announcements: Use your learning management system (LMS) to communicate course updates, changes, and new information to all your students.
- Video and audio feedback: Provide students with personalised feedback by recording a short video about projects or classwork they submit.
It’s also important to remember, especially in online environments, that you want to make learning expectations and goals as explicit as possible. This can give your students valuable guidance and help them reach your class’s definition of success.
2. Take a Bichronous Approach
Bichronous online learning allows students to participate in class both synchronously and asynchronously:
- Synchronous lessons can incorporate more face-to-face time into your teaching. For example, you may want to schedule a couple of hours during the week to meet with students using web conferencing technology. This is especially useful when you’re teaching material that requires immediate feedback, discussion, or clarification to keep students on track.
- Asynchronous learning can help students stay engaged in self-paced learning. They can watch videos, complete readings, or post discussions before or after their real-time lessons. This allows students to deliberate and reflect on their learning at their own pace.
The ratio of synchronous to asynchronous learning will vary between courses. Using this combined method can help you realise the best of both worlds. It can give students a greater sense of connectedness, and it can support improved learning outcomes.
3. Provide Opportunities for Informal Interaction
Shifting from in-person to online learning without a proactive plan can impact the social aspect of learning. That’s why you must work to integrate student-to-student interaction in lessons, especially when they may not be able to connect in person. Leverage your LMS to make interaction available and on demand for learners:
- Make peer feedback a part of your course to provide students with new learning opportunities for both givers and receivers of feedback.
- Provide opportunities for groups to work together on projects and class assignments to encourage collaboration.
- Incorporate online communication through discussion boards or social media to promote socialisation with peers.
These strategies encourage more conversational dialogue between students. This is integral to any learning experience, as it allows students to engage in academic content without being constrained by a formal curriculum.
4. Ask for Student Feedback
You want to make sure your courses are hitting the mark. Let students give feedback throughout the course through anonymous surveys, discussion groups, or office hours. Ask questions such as these: What interests them most about the content? What concerns do they have about the course? How do they like the online tools in your class? By finding out what is and isn’t working, you can design lessons and activities that really engage them.
Learn About the Best Practices for Teaching Online
Education isn’t just about transferring knowledge. It’s also about students being engaged in the process of learning to develop their social skills, mindsets, and capabilities. You want to account for the differences between online and in-person learning and to focus on including innovative strategies to build and strengthen learning for all students.