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More and more colleges and K12 schools converted to online learning in the past two years. This change was partly due to the pandemic, but many are permanently offering this type of education. Sometimes, teachers can struggle to keep their students engaged when learning online. The tips below can help you increase interaction with your online classroom students, however, to still give your classes a valuable experience.
1. Engage Discussion
It can be difficult to get discussions going when you teach an online class. Students do not want to be the only ones on the virtual feed talking. To give everyone a safe space to share, consider conducting polls or opinion-based quizzes. You can then read off the results, ensuring that every student has a representation. After you share the outcomes, students may then feel more willing to share their own opinions via chat or mic. You can also make discussion part of their daily points that will contribute to their overall grade. This will increase the likelihood of engagement as well. Depending on how much time you would like to create for just discussion, you can even make break out groups on zoom. Have each group go over a series of questions and write down their answers together. When everyone comes back to the original zoom call, you can have each group present what they came up with as a team. Not only does this create more discussion amongst schoolmates, but it motivates them to brainstorm together in order to come up with some great answers to share.
2. Answer Chat Messages
Speaking of chat, make sure your students know you notice their messages. Answer the questions they type to you while in the lecture, as some of the other pupils may have confusion on a specific topic too. Your students will feel appreciated, listened to, and as if you care about their learning goals. Before class even starts, you can engage in small talk with your early students via the chat box available on most platforms. Make sure you remember to check the chat messages periodically through the class so you do not accidentally miss a question. Someone in your class could not understand the topic and the further along you keep going, the more confused they may become. This will also save you time in the long run because you won’t have to keep repeating multiple steps of a process and going backwards. Making sure that everyone is on the same page will ensure that everyone has a good idea of what is happening in class at any given point during the lecture.
3. Offer Group Projects or Discussion Boards
When you ask any student the type of assignment they hate the most, they will likely tell you discussion boards or group projects. Change that stereotype, however, by making each of these more fun. Reward your students for their cooperation with one another and the communication they have to engage in to complete their assignments. Make them excited about having to talk to one another by offering them a hands-on experience as much as possible with these group projects and discussion boards. These types of opportunities can help students to collaborate and ask each other questions they may not ask you. If all of them are confused on something, then you will know what concepts or topics that the students may be struggling with overall.
4. Record Your Sessions
Make sure that you screen grab every lecture you present to your students. Upload the finalized video to the online platform that your school uses so that the learners can go back and reference the information as necessary. After rewatching, students may feel more obliged to reach out to you about the questions they may have. Doing this will allow the relationship to build between you and the learners that you invest in so much. Make sure to remind students that the recorded sessions are always available. Some students may want to refer back to these before a big quiz or test. This can be especially helpful for students who learn best from listening or watching. You can even send out emails to the parents to let them know of these resources that are available. They will likely be very grateful knowing that they will be better able to help their kids after work if they also have the availability to know what the chapters or topics are about. It also gives parents a chance to see what lectures you are teaching and what their children should be learning during the year.
5. Offer Interactive Learning Materials
Students want to do more than just read a standard textbook to learn. If you teach about data frames, for instance, provide them the R for Data Science book that has interactive material and hands-on lessons. Besides textbooks, however, you can send them links to podcasts or videos that provide them more material on a subject. Allow them the opportunity to even watch a movie, for instance, such as “The Butterfly Effect” if you are a psychology teacher, for example. Interactive learning material can be some of the best ways to teach students because they are able to have hands-on learning opportunities. This can make a world of a difference when it comes down to understanding concepts, terms, or subject matter. They will likely do better on tests as well if you give them the available tools for them to practice with.
6. Let the Students Teach
With all of the research and learning that students have to engage in, they likely know more material about the subject matter than they let on. Let the pupils have a time at the end of every class where they can share any new information they came across. It may even be something that you had never heard of before! You never know the valuable resources that the learners may have available for you and their classmates. Plus, it will make the students feel more important in the online learning environment. You can even let them come up with a game at the end of their lesson that involves aspects of the lesson that they taught. This way students will want to listen better because it will help them win the game at the end of the students lesson. This is a win-win situation for everyone while keeping class fun and highly interactive.
7. Plan Ahead
To know that your online classroom and lectures are as interactive as possible, make sure you always plan ahead. Always consider your learners when you create your lessons, ensuring that they will understand the material and catch on to it. Create a schedule for yourself, including the times in your lectures you can dedicate to discussions or student-led information. Always make sure you have a backup option if your first plan falls through for some reason. The possibilities are endless for what you can do in an online school!
If you are new to online teaching, you may feel nervous about keeping your students interested and engaged. Make sure that you put appropriate planning in place and spend time getting to know your students. Allow them to share any resources they have available and bring opportunities where they can work with each other as well.