How to engage students in online Higher Education classes?

Challenges exist, but they can be overcome with strategies, techniques and practices designed especially for virtual classes.

How to engage students in online classes? If Google could access the thoughts of teachers who are teaching their classes over the internet, this would certainly be one of the most sought after results of the past few months.

A good teaching-learning process, as the name implies, consists not only of what is taught, but also of what students are able to assimilate from it, and engagement with classes is essential to improve this relationship.

However, if this is already a challenge in face-to-face classes, synchronous classes in which everyone shares not only the same schedule but also the same physical space, let alone when we talk about online classes, where distractions can easily take the students’ attention .

Fortunately, there are ways to encourage this engagement, which even start well before the moment the class starts, and it is essential that you, the education professional, know what to do to get the best out of the students in this process.

Stay with us to learn more about such an important subject in the context in which we are currently inserted, the “new normal”, and which will certainly continue to be fundamental from now on.

How to engage students in online classes? Is there a secret?

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  • 1How to engage students in online classes? Is there a secret?
    • 1Before class
    • 2During classes
    • 3After class
  • 2Student engagement: a continuing challenge in hybrid education

Not necessarily a secret, but there is a set of techniques and practices to make them participate more actively in classes.

According to the Brain Balance Achievement Centers , child development experts often say that the amount of time a child can keep their attention focused on a particular task, called an attention span , is usually two to three minutes per year of age.

This means that children aged 10 would be able to pay attention for 20 to 30 minutes in some activity. If this were maintained for the stage of adolescence and adulthood, someone aged 20 would have an attention span of 40 to 60 minutes, someone aged 30 would have 60 to 90 minutes, and so on.

However, one of the best professionals to agree that this depends a lot is the teacher himself, who notes that this does not always apply in a classroom classroom.

Now, even if this doesn’t happen under normal conditions, it is to be expected that the “attention window” in an online class will be even smaller, which means that engagement can also be seriously impaired.

A super important tip is to work with instructional design in the educational institution, that is, to have a specific planning for the development of digital instructional experiences, which optimize learning for online teaching, which is practically indispensable for a quality DE.

It is a fact that this is not a magic formula, but there are some ways to increase student engagement during online classes, which are divided between before class, during class and after class. Check it out:

Before the class

  • Share the purpose of the lesson before it starts. Send or share your class schedule to students in advance, either on the same day or even a few days before. This way, they will know what to expect from the class and will be able to prepare for it.
  • Suggest supporting materials. It is of great value to share some theoretical material with students before class, so that they can study the subject before it is explained. It can be the chapter of a book, an article on the internet or even the video of a YouTube channel (enjoy the technology!). Thus, student engagementtends to be significantly greater, as the topic addressed will not be entirely unknown.
  • Instigate students’ curiosity and interest in participating in the class. It is a challenge to get all students to connect in a synchronous session, so always think about topics that are interesting and encourage students to think and question themselves about the topic. Thus, there will be a desire to resolve that doubt, and it is in class that they will do so.
  • Prepare graphic material for the lesson. You do not need advanced skills in graphic design and diagramming to produce some visual material to share with students. Thus, both those with limited internet connections and those who may experience a drop in connection can continue to follow where the class was.

During the classes

  • Start the class informally. Do you know those moments of conversation that precede face-to-face classes? So they can (and should) also appear in online classes, which is great for encouraging student engagementand making the experience closer to what happens in the classroom.
  • Ask students to turn on their cameras. There is even a way to engage students in online classeswithout seeing their faces and allowing them to see the teacher’s face, but this is much more difficult. It is worth asking for the cameras to stay on, as this favors eye contact and interaction between students and teachers.
  • Request answers in real time. The student engagementtends to increase significantly when they need to interact with the class. The teacher can ask them questions via the chat room, apply questionnaires using voting tools or simply ask them to send a thumbs up if they understand (and a thumbs down if they are in doubt). Increasing the possibilities for interaction is very valuable.
  • Make good use of the time available and keep the class active. It is much better to summarize a little bit of the lesson to make it more interactive than to make it long and even “dragged”, which is an invitation to decrease student engagement. Make good use of your time and keep an active pace, as students’ attention span is naturally smaller in online classes.

Also read: Online Education vs. Remote Education: are we ready?

After school

  • Read the responses and give proper feedback. Do you know the questions and interactions we stimulate during class? Well, after she finishes, see everything the students said and shared and give them feedback about this interaction, with tips that can help to resolve doubts and words of support to keep them interested.
  • Compile the interactions and think about how to improve for the next one. The way to engage students in online classesthat works today may not work as well tomorrow. This means that the process must consist of continuous improvement, and for that it is necessary to analyze the interactions of the students and think of something that can further optimize it in the next synchronous meetings.

Student engagement: a continuing challenge in hybrid education

As a rule, engagement in Higher Education is no longer as intense as it is in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education, a difference that tends to become even greater when classes are taught in digital environments.

However, on the other hand, this is a challenge that cannot be overlooked. The hybrid learning is a reality that must be applied already by the end of 2020 and become something increasingly common since then, which is almost inevitable in a world whose technological development is so sharp.

It is true that this is a new and challenging scenario for students and teachers. However, precisely because it is something new, everyone must do their part so that the adaptation occurs in the best possible way and that the bases for the “new normal” are well established.

Do you remember that you did not know so well what to do to engage students in face-to-face classes at the beginning, when you started teaching? Well, today you may not know how to engage students in online classes , but as the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and the tendency is for the process to improve every day.

 

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