Achieving adequate student engagement has always been a challenge, but now, in the days of digital classrooms, engagement is harder to achieve than ever. However, when teachers leverage the interactive learning tools at their disposal, they’ll see that there are tons of ways to keep students engaged online. You just have to find the right resources and implement the right techniques. One of the best online tools for teachers during this time of remote learning has been video conferencing software.
Video conferencing allows teachers to get that face-to-face time that many online learning programs often lack, and retain a sense of classroom. It can also aid in creating a sense of community because certain video conferencing software allows you and the students to see and speak to the rest of the class at once. They may even include messaging features, so you can have both private and public conversations, and you and the students can share resources with each other. Though video conferencing can boost interaction and engagement with an entire learning program and help keep students motivated to continue their lessons, there are still issues with engagement. Students may not want to tune in. They may mute their microphone or speak over you or other students. They may have their computers open to other programs and not truly engage in the lesson.
To help educators in their efforts to keep students interested and engaged, we’ve put together the top tips for improving student engagement during video conferencing.
Top Tips for Engaging Distracted Students During Video Conferencing
One of the best things about elearning is that students have more flexibility and the chance to work at their own pace. This works for many students, but not all. Many still need that face-to-face interaction, structure, and live classroom experience. This is where video conferencing comes in.
Video conferences are an instrumental tool in an online classroom, and they can really improve the motivation of students. However, just as there were in classrooms, distracted students will be in your virtual classroom as well. You can limit these distractions, though, and help students continue to improve their education during virtual learning. Below are some of the top tips that can help you get your students on track to better learning.
Provide students with your expectations from the beginning
This is a behavior management tip for any classroom, whether it be online or in person. When you tell a class from the beginning how you expect them to behave, they’re more likely to follow your orders and it’s easy to correct their behaviors. This is because you’ve already given them a sense of what is acceptable and unacceptable in this space. They know their boundaries from the start, rather than pushing and testing to learn them. Kids will naturally search for their boundaries and aim to see how far they can take things before there are repercussions. So, setting these boundaries early is an easier way to keep students from misbehaving. That being said, these expectations should be clear, easy to remember and follow, and reasonable. If you’re going to set these boundaries, there should also be consequences for crossing them, and you’ll need to follow through with them to maintain consistency.
Leverage the right video conferencing software
There is great video conferencing software available today, but they aren’t all created equal. Look for software specifically designed with teachers and students in mind, like GoGuardian video conferencing. Our safe and secure software allows teachers to:
Control microphone and webcam settings
Record and share lessons
Monitor what students are doing on their devices
Video conferencing is a valuable tool for teachers and students, but video conferencing from GoGuardian works specifically for the K-12 learning environment.
Use your chat window
Every student has their own unique way of learning, which is one of the reasons virtual learning works so well. It allows for many different learning methods and provides much more flexibility. Though this is true, if you only work with video conferencing, then you’re limiting yourself and students. Give them a chance to work on problems on their own and with groups, and provide them with both visual and auditory resources. Video conferencing—where you’re speaking to them as you would in a regular classroom—is a great auditory resource. But consider using your chat feature strategically. Provide materials to your students and bullet points of the lesson. Allow them to speak to you and ask questions through chat as well.
Shorter sessions and smaller classrooms
It’s difficult to focus on so many students at once, especially in a virtual environment. Making your classrooms smaller and shorter allows you to speak more directly to students, offer them the help they need, and provide them with other resources to continue learning the material. You don’t want to overwhelm them or yourself. Keep it short and simple. Maybe even provide multiple times throughout the day that students can sign into a class. This way, they can work on their own schedule and even drop in twice if they feel they need more information.
Consider a range of activities
Virtual classrooms are great because they provide so much opportunity to learn in various ways. Take advantage of this opportunity to teach all students, rather than only those who work best in a classroom setting. You can do this with a range of activities, including:
Group debates or teams
Group projects with virtual tools
Video sharing and creation
Collaboration with other schools on projects
Virtual guest speakers
Students have great opportunities today that allow them to get involved in their communities, make a difference by volunteering, collaborating with projects, and even starting their own online businesses—all without ever leaving their homes. Leverage this, and allow them to see that there are many ways to learn and grow and be a part of the world they live in.
Switch it up
Most people have short attention spans—it’s not just a kid thing. However, students tend to get bored more when they feel obligated to learn rather than excited to learn. Keeping up their engagement is vital to ensuring that they’re learning the material they need to succeed in life. So, while it’s great to hope and expect that they’re able to focus on their teacher speaking for a thirty-minute block, it’s unlikely they will, at least for the entire time. To keep them engaged, mix up your lessons. Speak for a period of time, then add in a short video to back up your points, then go back to speaking, and add a short one-question fun quiz that doesn’t count toward a grade. This will help to keep their minds active and set on focusing so they don’t miss something vital.
For a deeper dive into student engagement, read the 2020 State of Engagement Report from our Research and Insights Team. Our team spent the 2019-2020 school year conducting field observations around the country and have presented their findings on the factors and indicators of engagement.