In a study, “Survey of Student Perceptions of Remote Teaching and Learning,” by Digital Promise and Langer Research, students cited a lack of interactivity and collaboration as the reasons for their “diminished experience” in remote learning.
These students said they missed live sessions for discussions, real-world examples, personal attention from instructors, and break-outs in online classes. These points offer a peek into students' day to day challenges of remote learning.
Creating exciting online learning experiences is critical and requires consistent effort by institutions and instructors. To keep remote students engaged is easier said than done. But even though challenging, remote offers plenty of space to engage innovatively.
Here we share nine tips you might find useful to enhance your remote student engagement strategies.
1. Make lectures interactive
It's easy for students to turn off their video, lose focus, or get distracted by social media while professors lecture away in online classes. How do you keep their attention? Use the power of interactivity.
Students in interactive classes retain 50 to 90 percent of the information than just 5 to 30 percent when lectures are one-way. Three types of exchanges are vital to learning and engagement - student-teacher, student-student, and student-content. Try these tips to reinforce interactivity:
- Introduce group brainstorming sessions, and give participation grades. It has an impact on students’ achievement and satisfaction.
- Reserve more time for question-answer sessions. It keeps them more attentive and prepared to ask questions.
- Interaction can be informal, too. Create opportunities for casual conversations about their extracurricular activities and life outside of studies.
2. Collaboration is key
Learning alone while being glued to screens can get monotonous and limiting. Collaboration is a proven strategy that helps students learn from each other. When they study interdependently, they add value to the group and to each other. It helps develop higher-level thinking abilities, become more open to others' perspectives, and think deeply about subjects. But more importantly, collaboration helps overcome the isolation associated with remote learning. Here’s how you can enhance collaborative remote learning:
- Assign group activities to students; it will make them listen to one another and build dependence on each other; in the process, contribute and learn new ideas.
- Empower students by letting them set their own norms while studying together; it can help them understand shared expectations and engage deeper.
- Allow them to own their group projects completely; it can help them build problem-solving skills and develop self-directed learning.
3. Create a culture of accountability
Imagine you asking questions during an online class with no response from your students. Without face-to-face interaction, online classrooms make it easy for students to remain invisible or quiet, especially the shy and introverted ones. The onus of making remote learning successful should be on students, too. Instilling a sense of accountability in them can help.
Ways to building accountability:
- Communicate learning expectations to your students. Let them know the grading process and standards, especially for new assignments. It will ensure they pay attention and follow instructions.
- Monitor their learning and act when they don’t meet expectations. Support them but in a way that makes them fish for their own solutions. It builds a greater sense of responsibility.
- Some instructors use simple techniques - entry tickets to ensure students come prepared for class and exit tickets to assess their understanding of the lecture.
4. Give feedback - make it personal and timely
Providing feedback can make your students feel heard, solve their problems, and help them progress fast. While in-class learning offers different opportunities for sharing feedback, it isn't easy in remote education as feedback is useful when it's personal, task-related, timely, and specific. All of these are quite challenging in online learning, but not impossible.
One teacher from Norwich finds Google Forms particularly useful for giving homework, asking questions, and providing feedback. Many instructors prefer to provide feedback via email - it allows them to solve their students’ individual problems. Newer, savvier remote campus tools can enable you to use messaging and video, too, making feedback faster and more effective.
5. Make social interactions a part of your class
Professor Andy Molinsky of Brandeis University uses a key student engagement strategy. He logs in a few minutes before his students start trickling in, to greet and engage in friendly conversations with them. The reason - to break the physical and psychological distance.
Engaging with students in informal conversations has many benefits. A study by Casel reveals social interactions have a positive effect on students' academic performance.
Some ways to bring in social interactions while keeping them formal enough: ask students to share about their hobbies, discuss topics outside of their books - music, politics, culture, etc. Organize games and quizzes outside of your classroom course content.
6. Create engaging content - mix up formats
Today's generation is used to multiple stimuli, making it hard for them to 'enjoy' or focus on content in just one format. Imagine these students having to sit through a virtual class with only slide presentations or just audio.
"Switch gears and offer new and diverse ways for students to engage physically, verbally or textually every six to eight minutes," says Neria Sebastien, assistant professor at Seattle University's College of Education. An element of surprise from a mix of content formats - slide presentations, audio, video, and games - can help pique their interest and work as an excellent student engagement strategy.
7. Focus on building community
College students look for more than just academics. Now, more than ever, studying remotely, they look for a sense of community. The opportunity to connect physically before and after class or at events on campus can be completely lacking in remote classes if not created intentionally.
Some easy ways to start building a sense of community:
- Bring in connectedness - it builds trust and helps nurture a community feeling. Your students should feel a sense of belonging to the group or class, and be flexible enough to adapt to changes that might occur due to other fellow students' needs.
- Encourage students to share quality online time: share experiences, stories, check-in on each others’ learning needs. This brings in the sense of caring for each other.
8. Pay attention to your students' intrinsic motivations
Students feel intrinsically motivated when they do something that makes them feel good, personally challenged, or accomplished. In remote learning, this can be particularly challenging as instructors prioritize other day-to-day issues of online classes. But with the right practices, you can achieve it easily.
Robert Marzano, the author of The Highly Engaged Classroom, points to the importance of allowing students to choose where they'd like to put in efforts; it helps them engage more in-depth with their learning. Knowing individual students, giving them ownership of their learning, allowing them to set their goals, and providing specific feedback are good practices for supporting intrinsic motivation.
9. Use online engagement tools
Not all instructors are tech savvy, but the pandemic has forced them to shift to teaching online. Some still hesitate to make the most of the engagement features provided by online learning platforms. Using engagement features can help make online classes as engaging as in-class. E.g., Zoom's hand feature to raise hands, sharing comments in the chat section, breakout rooms, and polling are simple yet effective ways to engage students.
Whether colleges continue fully remote, hybrid, or HyFlex models, keeping remote students engaged is key to creating an effective student experience. Learning and practicing new ways of engaging students could make a difference to your student, classroom, and institutional success.