While online learning and working in the online environment are new to many students and teachers, a great many others have been using distance learning for a decade or longer. For these educators and young learners, student engagement in the remote learning atmosphere seems to be much simpler than it is for those of us who are newer to it.
What lessons can we take away from more seasoned students and veteran online teachers when it comes to the challenges we face in online learning engagement? After all, many of us might only be here because of the pandemic, but the chances are great that many more of us will stay here long after the return to the traditional classroom.
Here are a few of the challenges you might encounter in your online learning environment and some ideas about how to change course for the students and parents who are counting on you for their education.
Set Up Lines of Communication from Before the Word “Go”
More seasoned online educators will tell you that communication from the start is one of the most important and significant ways you can ensure student success. Get in touch with parents as soon as you have their contact information, and stay in touch with them on a regular and ongoing basis from that day forward.
Ensure that all parents and students understand exactly when and where they will find their assignments, when they are due, where they can reach out for help, and how they can log into systems that will make their learning experience online a more fulfilling one.
Help Non-Social Students Stay Caught Up
Seasoned distance-learning educators should consider watching out for students who are hesitant to be social in the online classroom. It could be that they are not getting the engagement they need from the teacher or their fellow students.
Young learners might not read along in class or pay attention to what is going on when there is no incentive for them to keep their heads in the game. To avoid mental drop-off during online class, teachers should let students know at the top of each hour that they could be called on at any time.
This could remind students to pay attention, and it also incentivizes them to get to know their classmates' names. Students may be more likely to engage in distance learning when they feel the teacher cares about whether or not they are keeping up. This means that teachers should know where each student is in terms of assignments turned in, homework completed, and classroom participation time.
Ensure Your Students Also Have Screen-Free Time
Distance learning would not be possible without computers and other screens. We count on these devices to bring students and teachers together each day. Yet, we also know that students who are only engaging in online activities will have a harder time when it comes to screen-free activities. They may find it more challenging to read a book or engage in group activities when they return to the traditional classroom.
The truth of the matter is that we still do not know the impacts of today's technology on students. But what we do know is that their engagement is greatly enhanced when they use a variety of ways to engage with their learning materials.
As an online educator, this means assigning activities that get your students out into the world, on their bikes, into nature, and in general, offline wherever possible. You can do this by incentivizing your students to read real paper books, write out assignments like book reports for them to turn in through the mail or scan online after they’ve written it, and get them involved in art projects that refocus them away from the digital world they’re in every day.
Try New Things to Drive Student Engagement
When it comes to the online classroom, the options are endless. You can take your classroom outside when weather permits or take them into the kitchen to learn about measuring.
The online classroom does not have to be limiting. Instead, see it as a new method that allows you to take your class anywhere you have an internet connection. In this way, you can enhance student engagement by offering them different visual backgrounds each day.
What's more, you can also increase student participation by constantly changing focus on new topics for learning math, science, language arts, and other subjects.
While it is important to always be open to trying new things, teachers who spread themselves too thin will have a harder time keeping track of student success. There’s no better tool than your common sense to drive the decisions you make about how many different things you will bring to the classroom each week.
To enhance your classroom management skills and create more fun projects away from screens, consider using GoGuardian Teacher™ to manage your classroom and keep students on-task. GoGuardian Teacher can help you eliminate distractions, better connect with your students, and save time as you create exciting new opportunities to engage your students.