This online learning blog series is aimed at helping educators in a time of uncertainty and new challenges.
Whether you are managing a virtual classroom daily with synchronous instruction or engaging with asynchronous instruction, supporting students as they balance their time on- and off-the-screen makes a difference in their overall success.
What are some tips to increase engagement in the virtual classroom that keep students coming back to class?
- Brainstorm ideas. Don’t guess or assume that students know how to manage their time virtually. Ask students what strategies they are using. Brainstorm with your class the ways to:
- Stay present and engaged during an hour virtual zoom call
- Ask for help (quick questions or longer extra help sessions)
- Complete multiple assignments for multiple classes
- Workspace (Where are they completing their work?)
- Managing deadlines
- Understanding the assignment
- Take a water break. Literally have students drink water with you. Discuss why water breaks are healthy for brain development and how it impacts their ability to stay focused and enjoy the learning session.
- Schedule structured work time. Offer office hours where students can log on to work along with their classmates and/or with you.
- Schedule down time. Students need time to continue building community with their classmates. However, if you make this time for building community optional, you may not experience the high levels of attendance you’re aiming towards. Instead, consider making the time for community building a requirement. Set goals for your time. For example, when our community is over, be sure to submit the 3 things you learned about a classmate today that you didn’t already know.
- Give guidelines for relationship-building as a component for partnership work: You are probably already having students work together with a partner on a discussion question or special project. Instead of hoping students take the time to get to know each other and build a relationship. Include a getting to know you question or activity as part of the assignment. Including relationship building as a mandatory component sends a powerful message of the importance of getting to know my partner and how that helps us work together to complete our assignment or project.
- Celebrate incremental learning. Just as you would celebrate learning in your classroom, it’s even more important to celebrate the learning that’s happening virtually for all students to see. Consider using different tech tools such as Seesaw and Padlet that allow you to post and have students respond to the posts. You can also create a few slides that highlight what students have said or pictures of what they have created. The more you show off your students’ learning, the more they will feel valued in the virtual space.
- Give options: A true plus side for the virtual space is the opportunity to increase student choices. Give students guidance in creating a learning path for the week. For example, I can attend all live class sessions or I can attend 1:1 teacher/student sessions and complete the weekly, monthly, or semester-long project. Get creative with ways in which students can engage and demonstrate learning, especially if the technology is a challenge. Structured options give students ownership over their learning and limit their stress levels.
If you have other strategies that have been supportive in the virtual space to increase student engagement, please share them here. We’re all in this together!
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Category: No-Nonsense Nurturer, Teaching