7 Ways to Boost Student Engagement in Online/Virtual Classrooms

Online education has become the new normal, especially in this COVID pandemic situation. Though online learning has many benefits, it surely comes with its own set of challenges. And one of them is – Student Engagement.

In a classroom, it can be easy to point out when a student is disengaged. So, teachers can easily manage to build positivity and encourage excitement in learning.

However, this is not possible during an online classroom. Without face-to-face accountability, students can easily get distracted and give up concentration without getting noticed. With no idea of whether students are engaged or not, the teacher can be clueless about how to increase their learning potential.

Though student engagement is the biggest challenge of online learning – it can be resolved with some clever strategies.
In this blog post, we will talk about…

What is Student Engagement?

It is defined based on the level of interest, participation, and excitement a student shows in a learning environment. Student engagement is categorized into three types…

  1. Behavioral – They tend to follow the instructions properly, participate actively and complete their assignments on time.
  2. Emotional – They feel a part of the class or college. They interact positively, encourage fellow students and be alert all the time during the class.
  3. Cognitive – It is also referred to as intellectual engagement where students are more eager to learn, think deeply, ask challenging questions and complete the assignments no matter what.

Why is Student Engagement More Important?

The engagement of a student is directly linked to their success. According to many research and studies, when teachers use activities and strategies to maintain attention and involvements, student’s achievements rise.

When students don’t get engaged properly, their test scores and achievement plummet. You can lead a student to a textbook but you cannot force them to learn what’s present in it. Proper engagement – behavioral, cognitive and emotional – is the key to significant and meaningful learning.

So, to conclude – Engaged Students = Successful Learning Outcomes

Engaged Students Vs Disengaged Students

Below are some of the key differences and behaviors often observed among the students, which will let you understand whether they are engaged or disengaged.

Engaged Disengaged
Follows the rules, prepares ahead and works carefully Doesn’t show much interest in participation
Displays enthusiastic behavior Observes things passively
Asks for doubt clarification Never seeks out help
Aims for better learning and scores Satisfied with minimum marks
Curious and interested during polls or assignments Uninterested to continue with the assignments
Concentrates deeply in completing the tasks Always leave tasks incomplete
Goal-driven and self-motivated Always in the state of aversiveness
Enjoys and responds actively in the class Avoids challenges
Have can-do mentality Dispirited towards goal attainment
Committed to improvise or stick until the problem is resolved Give up pretty quickly and stays within the comfort zone

Motivation – Key Factor of Student Engagement

From creating optimal classroom conditions to reducing unproductive behaviors – motivation plays an important role in student’s behavior towards learning success. There are several theories of motivation, but only two types are closely related to educational settings – Intrinsic and Extrinsic.

  1. Extrinsic

    It is described as when the student feels motivated through rewards like good grades, prizes, stars, scholarship or similar accelerated programs.

  2. Intrinsic

    As the name implies, it is described when the student is motivated because it’s interesting or achievable. Intrinsic behavior can be supported through four psychological requirements.

    • Autonomy – having control over what they are doing
    • Competence – feeling capable of dealing with task
    • Relatedness – feeling supported by people or teacher they care
    • Relevance – approaching the task interestingly and valuable for their future

Extrinsic approach may encourage students to complete their tasks on time however, they are suitable for shorter periods of time and everyday tasks. However, for long term learning, nurturing intrinsic motivation is the right approach.

Strategies to Improve Student Engagement

Based on the above-mentioned motivation types, we have assorted a list of best strategies that help you increase student engagement in your online classes.

  1. Online Classroom Techniques

    In an online classroom, distractions like family, smartphones are pretty common. To order to maintain the attention of students towards lessons, you have to adapt certain classroom techniques – which creates a structured environment where students can feel motivated. We have mentioned these techniques below for your information.

    • Speak with your students and set some rules and values to follow during an online classroom. When you include students as well to make the decision, they will feel included and valuable.
    • Instead of having a one-way video session, it is better to have 2-way video classes. If you have more number of students, then divide the students into groups and after the tutoring session is completed, video call the groups individually and ask them if they understood the concepts learned and if they have any questions.
    • Never use dismissive or discouraging language in the online session. For students to respond or ask any doubts, discouragement can be a major setback.

    You can use certain online tools like Google Hangouts, Goto Meeting and similar to interact with students online without any disturbances.

  2. Active Learning

    Active learning is a technique to get students engaged with concepts or lessons in different ways. It can be achieved by encouraging students to discuss the problem or solve a problem with their classmates. Some of the best active learning activities are mentioned below…

    • Interview Procedure – Create groups of 3 or 5 students. Once the lesson is completed, take a 5 to 10-minute interview for each individual group. During this time, ask questions randomly based on the lesson you taught in the session.
    • Pause Procedure – While teaching, pause for every 15 minutes and give a chance to the students to ask any doubts or questions on the topic covered.

    You can use either video or chat groups to support active learning among students. Byndr has Groups feature where you can easily create student groups and interact with them.

  3. Cooperative Learning

    Cooperative learning is a perfect example of peer-to-peer learning. Divide the students into small groups. Give them a topic and let them explore its concept in their own way. Tell them to discuss or debate about the topic. For example, if you are teaching history, ask them to explore, discuss and debate regarding the wars, kings or any other periodical topic. If it is mathematics, then ask them to come up with ways of solving an equation or problem.

  4. Some fruitful cooperative learning techniques include…

    • Interaction – within the group, students can encourage each other and provide feedback to fellow peers.
    • Accountability – accepting their role and involvement within the group.
    • Interdependence – students learn to respect the efforts of each other and work together to achieve the goals.
    • Group Processing – students can work together in determining the goals and the procedure to complete them.
  5. Quick Writes

    Write-ups are not just limited to journalism anymore. Letting the students write down their thoughts and questions has been very beneficial, especially in science and geography class. Before or after the online session, ask students to compose a document or content based on the topic covered. This will let them go deep with the concepts and learn pro-actively. This will also let you know whether students are moving in the right direction or not.

  6. You can use Assignment feature present in Byndr tool for this type of student engagement technique.

  7. Reciprocal Teaching

    This is one of the best ways to get students excited about learning. It involves 4 key components.

    • Prediction – Ask your students what is the next step in the process or what happens next.
    • Questioning – encourage your students to ask questions why, how, when, where.
    • Clarification – identify any confusing steps or unknown words and clarify them.
    • Summarizing – making a note of important notes about the topic for future reference.

    This can be done alone by the student or as a group. You can Quiz or Polls feature to achieve this engagement strategy.

  8. Personalized Learning

    Some students are quick learners which others take some time to get a grasp over the concepts. Excelling students may grow without any help but people who take time will need more instructions and encouragement to overcome their fears/blocks and understand the concept. And this where personalized learning comes into play.

  9. Through this technique, students will slowly motivate themselves into practicing self-advocacy. Some of the best personalized learning strategies include…

    • Setting an academic goal (long term) or short term goals like completing task within a certain time period.
    • Giving them plenty of opportunities to showcase their learning spirit and knowledge.
    • Providing extra support and instructions to help students learn at their own pace.

    Using Byndr, teachers can provide enough support to students by interacting with them individually, sharing materials, or extra set of instructions whenever they require.

  10. Project Based Learning

    Several studies have proven that project based learning will create an engaging environment for students. This creates a challenge to their learning potential and lets them make an extra effort to achieve them. Providing them a project and a certain time period to solve them or come up with a solution.

  11. During this engagement activity, make sure to provide enough time duration, let them apply the skills they are already aware of and provide freedom to solve the problem in their own way.

    Instead of depending on teacher-directed instruction, students will develop critical thinking and push their limits in solving the problem.

Final Thoughts…

When engagement is improved in students, it can have a major impact on their lives. Using engagement techniques will encourage students in active participation in the class session or afterwards. When teachers let the students believe their concerns are heard and voice matters, then they can accomplish so much in their education life and ahead as well.

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