5 Simple Ideas to Improve Student Engagement While Teaching Virtually

Posted by Craig Leager on May 5, 2020 2:51:15 PM

Let’s face it, maintaining student engagement can be tough, even when you are with your students in the same physical space. That said, there are things you can do to increase students’ active participation in online learning sessions and activities.

In this edition of the series Making Online Instruction Work – Now!, we suggest 5 ideas to keep students engaged in online instruction. 

  1. Interactive learning  
  2. Individualized support
  3. Multimedia
  4. Recognition
  5. Breaks

If you have settled into teaching online somewhat, and established some structures and systems for your students like regular lessons and activities, it is time to shift your thinking to how you will boost students’ engagement in this new reality of virtual learning. The following simple ideas are things that you can do right now! Let’s take a look.

5 Ideas to Improve Student Engagement

1. Interactive Learning

The basis of student engagement is meaningful student involvement throughout the learning experience. To achieve this with any degree of regularity, students need to have an active role in their learning. Lectures will not achieve this desired outcome. 

You have heard this since your teacher preparation program. You’ve accomplished it in your own classroom. But, now, how do you make learning interactive in the virtual classroom?

Here are some suggestions to help students feel stimulated by the learning process:

  • Host video conferences where students can chat and collaborate on projects
  • Assign hands-on activities that use common household materials
  • Develop projects that involve interviewing members of the household, or friends online
  • Set up weekly challenges

The point is to get students talking and interacting with one another. This supports both academic content and social emotional learning in students. After all, learning is a social endeavor, and interactive lessons increase student engagement.

To learn more about instructional planning and teaching resources for the virtual space, you may want to review our original Making Online Instruction Work – Now! blog.

2. Individualized Support

Getting one-on-one support is valuable in many ways. Not only does it support students with academic learning, but it can foster a deep, trusting relationship between the student and teacher. As described in our Virtual Relationships Matter blog, students perform better and are more engaged in the learning process when they have a healthy relationship with their teacher(s).

Especially if you and your students are new to online learning, it is advisable to set up times to connect with students individually. During these times, find out what is working for students and what has been challenging. Having these conversations will allow you to problem-solve and support them with their unique needs.

From a student engagement standpoint, many students will enjoy and benefit from this individualized support. And you will gain greater insight into how you can differentiate assignments and projects for certain students.

3. Multimedia

Video and audio clips are a great way to enhance your lesson while increasing interest and student engagement. While engaging on their own merits when embedded in a lesson, multimedia can be used in other ways to increase student engagement in learning.

Multimedia activities can be structured to allow students to work in groups. These types of learning experiences encourage students to collaborate, solve problems, and construct knowledge, among other things.

In addition to increasing student engagement, participating in multimedia activities can help students learn:

  • Skills related to various technology tools
  • Relevance of different media
  • Collaboration techniques
  • Research, planning, and organizational skills
  • Presentation methods

4. Recognition

Who doesn't appreciate some recognition from time to time? Students are no different in their desire to gain attention for themselves and their efforts.

Of course, not everyone wants their praises to be shouted from the rooftops, or even other forms of public accolades. However, there are lots of ways to offer recognition to your students. Recognition can be a motivator for many learners and can lead to higher levels of engagement in the learning process. Consider a variety of different methods of recognition—there is no one right way to recognize each student. Just remember, you know your students as individuals. Select forms of recognition that fit their individual personalities and needs.

Check out these easy, and free, ideas to positively recognize your students:

  • Verbal praise
  • Positive email or phone call to parents
  • Certificates of achievement
  • Virtual stickers

For group or whole class accomplishments, consider a virtual “party.” Using your video conferencing platform, have students celebrate their achievements together. The novelty alone of a virtual party could be a huge incentive for students.

The power of recognition goes a long way to motivating students and keeping them engaged in the learning environment, whether online or in a physical classroom. Be creative and come up with some of your own ways to recognize your students’ efforts.

5. Breaks

No one can effectively sustain long periods of cognitively demanding tasks day in and day out, especially students who are learning at home surrounded by distractions. Sitting in front of a computer for hours on end is exhausting for anyone, and not recommended for children anyway. Depending on the age of your students, learning activities should range from 10 to 40 minutes in length. In between lessons and learning tasks, students need breaks.

Let’s explore some ideas for both mental and physical breaks to combat student apathy:

  • Meditation (play some quiet music and peacefully relax)
  • Music (listen to a few songs, sing along, or play an instrument)
  • Exercises (encourage jumping jacks, running in place, yoga, etc.)
  • Walking (take a walk, whether inside or outside)
  • Sleep (a quick nap can be invigorating)

Remember, breaks are good for your mental and physical health, too. Be sure to help students understand the benefits while helping them balance their responsibilities for learning.

To explore more ideas, check out our blog Helping Students Learn At Home.

Next Steps

As you craft lessons for your students, be sure to try these 5 simple ideas to increase student engagement while you teach remotely.

  1. Interactive learning
  2. Individualized support
  3. Multimedia
  4. Recognition
  5. Breaks

And, don’t limit yourself to this list. As a classroom teacher, you're used to tapping your creativity to engage your students in the classroom for years; now it's time to turn it to online instruction!

Topics: teaching online, distance learning, "remote learning", Making Online Instruction Work - Now!, virtual teaching, student engagement