Six Ways to Improve Student Engagement in Online Classes
Student engagement is a very important parameter for the success of any teaching activity, whether it is online or offline. The more engaged the students are, the more satisfying is the teaching experience for a teacher and better learning outcomes for the students.
In online classes, ensuring a good student engagement is all the more important because, with cameras off, there is no way to see and analyze the facial expressions and body language of the student. There is no way to figure out if the students are really engaged in the lecture or have actually shut off, whether they are understanding the topic or not.
Students, on the other side, in a virtual classroom have to focus a lot more to be able to understand what’s going on in the class. There are a lot of distractions, such as the phone, television, chats, surrounding noise, etc., when they are attending the class from home. Also, there is no monitoring by the teacher regarding their presence and real attendance. Students are lost at times, in this virtual environment with no physical presence of the teacher, something they have been so used to for so many years.
To be able to make the students comfortable with this environment and ensure they stay connected for the whole duration of the lecture, teachers can adapt to the following ways:
- Calling out students’ names often – Quite often, due to technical, network, or environmental concerns, the cameras are switched off in a virtual classroom. Thus, the teacher would not know if the student is really present and listening in the class or not. So, it is a good practice to keep calling out the names of the students at random times and asking them to repeat what was explained. This would ensure that the students are present and attentive.
- Using quizzes/polls frequently – A virtual class can become very monotonous with everyone just staring on a screen, which may not even have the teacher’s face showing up. It is a difficult task to concentrate on just the sound coming from a device, without having a face with expressions, lip movements, hand gestures, etc associated with it. In such a scenario, students can easily get disconnected. Thus, to keep the students’ interest levels high, run quizzes and polls often during your class. It could just be a 3-5 question quiz, but it would break the monotony of the lecture. Also, ensure that the scores of the quiz or the results of the polls are published and included in the overall grades for that course. Most of the virtual classroom platforms – Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, BigBlueButton provide these quizzes and polls.
- Using flip-class – Share the topics that you are planning to teach and presentations with the students in advance. Given the time to read about the topic and go through your notes. While in the virtual class, let the students initiate the discussion and explain the topic for the initial half of the lecture. And then only in the second half of the lecture, the teacher should teach the topic. This will ensure that the students are engaged during the entire course of the lecture. The first half because they are all discussing and explaining, and the second half because that’s where their doubts will get clarified.
- Gamifying with reward points and badges – Whenever a student answers a question or starts a discussion topic, reward them with points. On accumulating a certain number of points, award them with badges. This will bring in a healthy competition among the students. This will encourage the students to talk more in the virtual class as they are being appreciated for the participation. There is some incentive to be attentive and talk in class. Their presence in the virtual class has some value. To be able to do this, an LMS would have to be integrated with the virtual classroom. Directly, the gamification feature might not be available in the virtual classroom. LMS such as MOODLE can be used for awarding points. The rules can be set in the LMS before-hand. MOODLE has a very extensive feature for awarding badges also as per the tasks finished or any good work done by the students.
- Group Appreciation – Make provision through which the achievements of the students, however small it might be, like a good discussion, or a brilliant answer is appreciated in the class What’s App group. The earned badges can also be displayed in the class What’s App group. In case you are using an LMS along with the virtual classroom, these badges can be downloaded both by the students and the teachers. Students can also set these badges as their What’s App status to further generate a healthy competitive spirit among themselves.
- Giving assignments and timely and useful feedback on the same – Before the beginning of a class, students should have feedback on their activities/assignments done in their previous class. This encourages them to complete their next tasks on time. Detailed constructive feedback is always better than generic praise or message. Timely and useful feedback tells the students that their teachers value their work and efforts.