During the pandemic, the shift to digital learning significantly weakened an already frail education system. Resources to appropriately prepare students to succeed in the digital world were insufficient, particularly for the most vulnerable students. Educators and teachers were obliged to push forwards and establish genuine relationships with students and families while completely revamping the educational system.
Lecturers bear a significant deal of responsibility in assisting students in succeeding, from arranging lectures and locating valuable materials to setting assignments and marking exams to giving a lesson. Inadequate face-to-face interactions, in-class collaboration, and unfamiliarity with online classes frequently cause students to feel alienated and disconnected from the rest of their online courses. With the trend of remote learning set to continue in the coming year, educators need to reconsider their strategy to engaging students online to produce a successful learning experience.
In this blog post, we will introduce you to best practices and resources that have been shown to boost online student engagement.
What is Student Engagement
Student engagement assesses students’ interest, attentiveness, participation, and readiness to learn during a class. It fosters motivation and educational progress. In any learning setting, there are three types of student engagement:
- Emotional – Feeling part of the group among professors and classmates, pleasantly communicating, and remaining alert at all times.
- Behavioural – Active participation, instructions followed, and work projects completed on time.
- Cognitive – Intellectual engagement through which learning occurs; a student’s investment in their learning (including motivation and self-regulation). It encourages students to think, understand, ask probing questions, and learn in stages.
Start with Active Learning Strategies
The abrupt shift to online teaching has undoubtedly caused educators worldwide to reconsider their teaching approaches and adapt or recreate their curricula to accommodate the conditions of available technology and distant learning. It is critical to incorporate learning methodologies that focus on student activity and creative engagement.
According to Bonwell and Eison, active learning strategies are ‘instructional activities involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing.’ L. Dee Fink expands on Bonwell and Eison’s concept of active learning in Creating Significant Learning Experiences by proposing a holistic perspective of active learning that incorporates all of the following components: information and ideas, experience, and reflective dialogue. Active learning involves students in the process of learning through activities like reading, writing, conversation, or problem-solving that enhance analysis, synthesis, and assessment of class information. Role-playing, group discussions, problem-solving, case studies, and other techniques are used to assist students in developing higher-order thinking skills and participating in deeper learning.
Collaborative learning is a method of teaching in which two or more people work together to improve learning. Working as a group to explore and comprehend the concepts offered to them allows students to get new views and better retain information by defending and reframing ideas.
Experiential learning is the process of learning via doing or from experience. Hands-on laboratory investigations, outdoor exercises, studio performances, and other activities are common examples. It encourages learners to think critically, enhance their problem-solving and decision-making abilities, and retain the material.
More common synchronous and asynchronous active learning methodologies for online teaching may be found here.
Ensure Virtual Collaboration
Following on from the significance of active learning, one of the essential methods to ensure that students are engaged with a virtual classroom is to ensure that they are also getting some social experience. This is why fostering chances for collaboration may be so helpful. Besides, we, as humans, have an intrinsic need to socialise. On the other hand, students do not receive the social stimulation that they would have received in an in-person learning environment when using remote learning. Hence, it is vital to encourage your students to collaborate during and between courses to assist them to overcome any negative impacts of distant learning, such as restlessness, lack of enthusiasm or interest, and cabin fever.
This collaboration can occur throughout the virtual classroom. Still, it is generally advisable to divide the learning group into smaller groups so that individual members are more likely to participate in conversations. When a collaboration session concludes, teachers might reassemble the learning group to exchange ideas.
A variety of technology solutions, like online chat functionalities that offer breakout rooms or instant messaging platforms, can help facilitate this type of breakaway cooperation. Some of the tools that contribute to much easier student collaboration online (and thus blended learning) include:
- Edmodo (edmodo.com)
This multi-platform, kid-safe platform is ideal for active learning – share content, have a conversation (in or out of the classroom), and even involve parents! Edmodo has been adopted by over 34 million teachers and students due to its broad collection of features, including collaboration-enabling capabilities such as Learning Communities and Discussions, making it one of the most popular free education platforms on the Web.
PenPal Schools may be the answer for teachers trying to broaden their students’ outlook and understanding. The global PenPal network, which includes over 15,000 instructors from 150 countries, is suitable for project-based learning in various subjects. With a focus on security and safety, program access is restricted to verified teachers and students, and teachers may monitor all messages.
Popplet, which is part mind mapping tool and half PowerPoint, provides students with a simple, concise approach to organise and communicate various ideas on a single topic. This collaborative tool allows users to capture their thoughts from a tablet or computer and show them for the rest of the class to view, from brainstorming for a writing project to visualising correlations between newly discovered photos and information.
Think of Authentic, Project-Based Learning Experiences
Students are engaged when they show a high level of attention as well as dedication. Planning excellent lesson activities and assessments is one of the most effective methods to engage students and boost their engagement in a virtual classroom. Authentic, project-based learning (PBL) is an excellent method for accomplishing this.
In PBL, students work on a project that engages them in fixing a real-world problem or answering a challenging question over a long period (from a week to a semester). They demonstrate their knowledge and abilities by generating a public product or giving a presentation in front of a live audience. As a result, students gain in-depth subject knowledge and critical thinking, cooperation, creativity, and communication abilities. Project-Based Learning instils in students and teachers an infectious sense of creativity.
According to PBLWorks experts, it can be helpful to think of regular school projects as a ‘dessert project’ – the assignment served up after the instructor has covered the content of a unit in the traditional manner. Project-based learning, on the other hand, is more like the ‘major course project,’ in that the project is the unit itself and the vehicle for teaching the important skills that students must master.
Making courses as enjoyable as possible is an essential aspect of increasing student engagement, and one way that might help with this is the concept of gamification. Although many attempts to include features of game playing and game creation into courses rely on in-person contact, this does not exclude the concept from being used in virtual classrooms.
Simply described, gamification is the application of game-design features and game principles in non-game environments. In-game ideas and themes, for example, accumulating virtual ‘points’ or other rewards, and completing a sequence of tasks or activities to advance to the next level, can be employed in contexts outside gaming to provide pleasure and excitement for the learner.
Gamification may also be defined as a set of actions and procedures that use game aspects to address problems.
An extensive study published in the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education in 2017 completed a critical analysis of five years of research examining how technology-based learning promotes student engagement. They investigated the functions of web-conferencing software, blogs, wikis, social networking sites (Facebook and Twitter), and digital games in particular.
According to their findings, digital games had the strongest influence on all types of student involvement (behavioural, emotional, and cognitive), followed by web-conferencing and Facebook. Wikis, blogs, and Twitter findings were less conclusive.
Some game aspects that can be used to engage and inspire learners are as follows:
- Immediate response
- ‘Instructional scaffolding’ with increasing difficulties
- Mastery (for example, in the form of levelling up)
- Indicators of progress (for example, points/badges/leaderboards, often known as PBLs)
- Social interaction.
In reality, the possibilities for gamification are nearly limitless, and the concept can present teachers with an excellent opportunity to be genuinely creative and exploratory. The aim is to make courses as enjoyable as possible so that students desire to participate while simultaneously ensuring that any activities played have some educational value.
It can be challenging to find techniques and tools to engage all students. Teachers can develop classes that give diversity and choice while still getting students invested in the content with a bit of imagination and effort. Teachers can make significant strides in engaging their students by creating connections to their students’ lives and bringing fun and excitement into the classroom.
- Bartle, E. (2015). Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING: AN OVERVIEW Contents. [online] . Available at: https://itali.uq.edu.au/files/1264/Discussion-paper-Experiential_learning_an_overview.pdf.
- Bonwell, C.C. & Eison, J.A. (1991). Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report 1. Washington, D.C.: George Washington University.
- Fink, D.L. (2003). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- (2019). “Doing a Project” vs. Project Based Learning. [online] Available at: https://www.pblworks.org/doing-project-vs-project-based-learning.
- Schindler, L.A., Burkholder, G.J., Morad, O.A. et al. Computer-based technology and student engagement: a critical review of the literature. Int J Educ Technol High Educ 14, 25 (2017).
- Venton, B.J., Pompano, R.R. Strategies for enhancing remote student engagement through active learning. Anal Bioanal Chem 413, 1507–1512 (2021).
- Fredricks, J.A., Blumenfeld, P.C. and Paris, A.H. (2004). School Engagement: Potential of the Concept, State of the Evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), pp.59–109.