September 18, 2020

New-School Ways to Increase Student Engagement Online & In the Classroom

GoGuardian Team
Student happy working on a computer at home with headphones and a microphone

Most educators know that student engagement is critical to their students' abilities to succeed in their class. Unfortunately, teachers have been stuck in their old and traditional ways of teaching. Virtual classes have become more common, and the use of technology is being readily incorporated into schools. As teachers and course creators, it's vital to understand how we can maximize our students' performance.

What Is Student Engagement?

Student engagement is the level of curiosity, attention, passion, interest, and optimism that a student has for learning a particular subject matter. The better a student's engagement level is, the more likely they will perform well in an academic setting. As educators, we know that students are engaged when they demonstrate behaviors of processing thoughts and emotions that connect with the course material.

There are three types of ways that students can engage with an online or traditional classroom: behavioral, cognitive, and emotional. Behavioral refers to how often and for how long students are engaged with course materials. Cognitive can be defined as how students think about and make connections with what they are learning. Emotional can be explained as the level of connectedness and caring that students feel in their classroom environment. Social-emotional learning plays a large role in this type of student engagement.

Why Is Student Engagement Important?

A student's engagement helps to improve their focus, cognitive abilities, and motivation. As a result, engaged learners will exhibit a higher achievement in courses, stronger satisfaction with their learning experience, and increased graduation rates. For a school that wants to reduce their drop-out rates and improve their student results on standardized tests, student engagement plays a significant role. Teachers play a vital role in how engaged students are based on their ability to connect with the learning material, so they consume information in a relatable way.

Student Engagement Strategies

Communicate in multiple mediums: With online classrooms, you can choose to send your content to students in many ways. Most teachers stick with standard avenues like email and discussion boards. However, consider using new forms of channels, such as video, audio, instant messaging, chat rooms, broadcasting, and home page announcements. There are four learning types: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading or writing. If you send video content along with an audio sound bite, you appeal to students who are listeners and visual learners. The more channels you provide, the more opportunities for students to engage with your information.

Include hands-on learning: Most people believe that learning is confined to their classrooms or on their computers. Allowing students to get out of the class and experience the information will help to increase student engagement. To implement hands-on learning, you can have students interview professionals in their field or bring their learning into the community. A few ways to incorporate active learning is by utilizing group projects, case studies, analyzing local data, attending events, and doing keynote presentations.

Make it social: As an instructor, you can add social media and social discussion to your classroom. Consider including a Twitter badge to your course homepage, and encourage students to post relevant content to their post using the same hashtag. This can create a sense of classroom community among all of the students. Additionally, you can encourage social discussion by implementing student engagement activities. For example, you can have students teach each other what they've learned. This helps you to gauge how much your students truly understand the material.

Gamify learning: Gamification is the process of adding gaming elements to learning, such as point scoring, adding badges, showing leaderboards, and unlocking new rewards. For instance, you can add badges for everyone who completes certain milestones in their learning. Another example has a leadership board. You can motivate students to read by giving them extra credit for each book review completed. Then you can add a leaderboard to show you have done the most book reviews. Gamification helps to encourage a particular behavior and increase engagement while learning.

Provide feedback: It's important to provide timely feedback to keep students engaged. Adding quick responses to emails and discussion posts helps hold your students accountable and keep them on track for their next assignment. It's best to provide a quick turnaround time for feedback, ideally before the move onto their next project. Telling your students what they did well and what they could improve on allows them to strive for better. If you're an English teacher, you can have your students get their papers peer-reviewed twice before handing you the paper. This helps students to see examples from their peers and requires them to critique others.

Submit assignments as blogs, videos, or podcasts: Turning in worksheets or papers can be redundant and boring. Most students tend to associate papers as a chore they have to complete. Have your students create their own private or public YouTube Channel, WordPress Blog, and SoundCloud account. Allowing students to create their video channel, blog, or podcast episodes provides a feeling of ownership. The students who take accountability for their learning tend to become more engaged. Rather than simply writing an essay, students can express their thoughts creatively and can uniquely share their research. This also removes the stress of writing the perfect essay, and it opens their mind to creative thinking.

Use live video conferencing: Video conferencing enables teachers and students to interact in real-time. Visual contact with their instructor provides students the ability to hear the tone of voice and read facial expressions. Video conferencing creates an environment in which students build relationships with the teacher and connect with students from anywhere in the world. These tools typically have features to enhance engagement, such as chat boxes, a button to raise your hand, the ability to screen share, and more.

Incorporate student engagement activities: One of the biggest complaints students have is their boring lecture. Students hate to sit in a lecture for 1-3 hours, listening to a topic they don't enjoy or understand. It's important to make the information relevant to the student. Break up your class time into lecture and engagement activities. Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Panel discussion – Invite a handful of students to be on the panel. Students in the class will ask questions, and the members of the panel will respond.
  • Brainstorming – Allow students to come up with ideas to solve a problem.
  • Case studies – Have students find real-life examples that relate to your topic. Or have them apply the lesson into their own life.
  • Share a video – Watch a video together, and have them share their thoughts with you.
  • Student presentations – Have an individual or group of students teach the class.
  • Group activities – Create groups and have students complete exercises together. This allows collaboration and new ideas to take place.
  • Role-playing – Have students experience a topic by exploring a behavior or situation in a safe environment.

The more interesting, fun, and social you can make the information, the better you'll see your students perform. Check out the GoGuardian Teacher management software to help students stay on-task and increase productivity during class.