Enrolment in online learning continues to witness increased growth. The 2017 Distance Education Enrollment Report indicates that the number of learners taking at least one distant course has steadily risen over the past 14 years.
While students in the millions continue to enroll in online courses, there is still an alarming dropout rate compared to traditional learning programs. A few of the major reasons for high online student dropout rates can be traced to a lack of motivation and engagement.
Indeed, an online student needs to plan properly, manage their schedules well, and set realistic learning goals. But instructors also need to implement best practices in teaching online courses.
If you are looking for ways to create better student engagement and improve your overall online presence, this article will show you five research-based tips that can take your online courses to a whole new level.
1. Actively Involve Your Students
One of the surest ways to improve online learning is to increase student engagement with the study materials. Research suggests that students tend to learn better when they actively take part in the learning process.
Participation can include various activities including discussions, case study analysis, personal or group investigations. Students can also be encouraged to gather data or develop questions for research and conduct in-person or online interviews.
Besides boosting participation, interaction, and engagement, these activities improve critical thinking and give students a sense of ownership of the learning process. Allowing students to actively participate in learning is a better teaching strategy than passively reading materials or watching lectures online.
2. Encourage Collaboration Between Peers
Teachers can improve overall learning for online students if they provide opportunities for learners to collaborate.
A 2017 study conducted by Michigan State University suggests that students are likely to do much better in their academics when their peers inspire them to learn rather than their instructors.
Also, according to over 50% of 1,500 online college students in a survey, interaction with peers and contact with classmates improves the quality of their online courses.
This is not in any way minimizing the great jobs that teachers do in communicating information and facts. Instead, it shows that students (just like every other person) find it easier to identify with those who share a common ground.
Some of the ways to encourage collaboration between your online students involve increasing their interaction levels. You can do that through:
- Student podcasts and blogs
- Discussion boards
- Online groups
- Video conferencing
- Group emails
3. Encourage Self-Governance
In addition to frequent feedback and support from teachers, a significant part of online student success hinges on their personal motivation and continued persistence. This is the finding of a 2009 study.
The study led by researchers from the College of Business Administration, Louisiana State University indicates that self-governance or personal empowerment plays a vital role in online learning.
Also, researchers from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development indicate that learners who are encouraged to take ownership of their learning do better in terms of identifying and working to achieve their academic goals.
As part of the best practices in teaching online learners, teachers are expected to counsel students on how to develop their goal setting, organization, and time management skills. Impress on each student to always seek advice and ask questions, as this will help them develop a growth mindset.
4. Collect Feedback from Students and Respond Promptly
Here’s one factor that distinguishes expert online instructors from novices: Experts are not afraid to gather feedback from students to evaluate and improve the course. They also let the students know that their opinions count.
This finding was a result of a study conducted across the United States to discover what constitutes excellence in online courses and the elements of an award-winning online course.
Teachers must recognize that delivering education in an online learning environment requires continuous improvement. One of the best ways to know what’s working and what’s not is to get direct feedback from those you are teaching – the students.
For the best practices in teaching online, here are some vital questions to ask each student:
- Do you feel comfortable using technology in our online classroom?
- Do you experience any recurring technical difficulties, such as poor internet connection or low audio quality?
- How do you think I can improve our virtual classroom?
- How easy or difficult is it for you to find what you need?
- Do you feel left out of the class?
- In what ways can I improve my lesson organization?
- Are my assignments clear enough for you?
Remember to use the feedback you get to improve your online teaching methods and course preparation.
5. Introduce Some Humor
Lastly, don’t leave out humor.
One of the best practices in teaching online students is to engage them using light humor. In many cases, online courses are considered impersonal and even boring. That’s because many teachers neglect the strategic use of humor.
However, research shows that humor can lead to physiological and psychological benefits that improve remote learning.
Think about it for a minute. Your capacity to retain information increases when you are relaxed compared to when you feel tensed or bored. A great way to get your students to relax is to incorporate light humor into online instruction.
Students are likely to look forward to attending online classes if they know they will find some lightheartedness during class instead of dreading the time with their professor or instructor. A 2005 study found that the inclusion of levity in online classrooms can significantly increase students’ interest and participation levels.
Teachers must not go overboard and let their use of humor distract students from the goal of online teaching. Use humor to make student learning more pleasant and to engage your students’ attention.
Incorporating these tips into your online course not only improves your online presence as a teacher but also helps students to grasp the concepts you work so hard to pass along.