The virtual space is not the easiest environment to teach students, yet it is becoming increasingly necessary. The challenges range from possible distractions on the students’ side to poor delivery methods by teachers.
Engaging online students require extra effort from the teacher, but the good news is that it can be done.
Here are eight useful suggestions on how to support online students more.
1. Encourage Students to Keep their Cameras On
Many students who participate in online classes prefer to switch off their webcams, especially those joining home. Perhaps they are inappropriately dressed or don’t want the teacher to see what they are doing.
The first vital step in engaging students online is getting them to put on their cameras during virtual classes. When teachers and students can both see each other’s faces, it creates accountability and a sense of connection.
Seeing each other will remove the disconnectedness that often accompanies online meetings. Make your students understand early enough why putting on their camera is a course expectation.
2. Tell Your Students What to Expect
Let your students know the topics and possible questions that will be treated in the virtual class in advance. Be as specific as you can when you tell them what they are expected to do and how they should prepare.
When you give your students a heads-up, they will be more invested in the learning process and be more open to participating. In turn, you will be pleased with the overall outcome.
In addition to telling them what to expect, ask them to come with at least one burning question about the topic to be discussed, perhaps something that confuses or frustrates them. Doing so will give them a sense of having a say in what they want to learn, instead of relying only on what you want to teach.
3. Pose Questions that Makes Students to Pick a Side
Consider these sample questions:
Question 1: “How can you get employees to be more creative and organized?”
Question 2: “What is more important to your success as an employee: being creative or being organized?”
Anyone can see that Question 2 is more engaging than the more simplistic Question 1. When you ask questions that require students to answer for or against an opinion, they are more involved and will add varying views that broaden the scope of the question.
To get students more engaged, ask them to write their views in a chat window where all others can see, and then select a few students to defend their views.
4. When You Ask Questions, Give Students a Moment to Respond
Cold calling doesn’t bring out the best in students in a face-to-face situation. But it is even worse in a virtual class as it can irritate, demotivate, and make them disinterested in further learning. When you pose a question, give your students a couple of minutes to write down their thoughts.
That way, they are better prepared to answer the question. Instead of cold calling, ask any student who is willing to give an answer to do so, and encourage others to also contribute to the discussion. This is one of the vital things you need to keep in mind if you are looking for how to support online students more.
5. Increase Your Online Presence
Students generally spend more time online doing non-academic activities. Do not limit your interactions with your students to the virtual classroom only. Sites, where students spend a lot of hours, are goldmines to any instructor, but you will need to strategically position yourself to get their attention.
You could use any of the following ways to get more involved with your students.
- Find out their favorite social media platform and engage them there. For example, you can post ideas and pictures relating to a specific topic or event on Twitter and encourage students to share their comments. Or you can post appropriate tutorials on YouTube, share the link with your students, and ask them to rate your video or leave a comment telling you what they think about the video.
- Create discussion boards where you can engage your students in casual discussions about specific topics. The idea is to make online learning more engaging, so it is best to aim for a conversational type of discussion board instead of a strictly formal format.
- Create a short introductory video about yourself and share it with your students. The content should let students know more than one way to reach you quickly. Include a brief statement on what your expectations for the course are. Remember to do this periodically, updating your information and expectation for each course.
- Respond to texts and emails promptly. If your students are sure that you’ll get back to them as soon as possible, they’ll be more open to connecting with you and what you have to teach.
6. Present Bite-Sized Instructions
Structure your course into short segments of about five to fifteen minutes of specific instructions on a single objective. Doing so is more likely to improve your students’ comprehension rate. You can hold their attention more with instructions that include slideshows, quizzes, infographics that combines graphics, images, and texts.
7. Interact With Students as They Work
One of the most practical ways to support online students more is by letting them know that you are right there with them. The simple act of acknowledging students during virtual classes, dropping into a chat room, or commenting on their work as they draft it online will give your students a sense that you’re beside them all the way.
8. Provide Active Learning Opportunities
Lastly, move past the misconception that online learning limits students to their desktops. Seek practical ways to assign your students to interview or engage professionals and people in their community. Incorporate group projects, case studies, as well as collecting and analyzing local data into their online courses.
Take the time to implement these ideas on how to support online students more. Before long, you will notice significant improvements in both the engagement and comprehension levels of your students.