Summer is winding down and the beginning of a new school year is just around the corner, along with much uncertainty about how it will go. With no end to the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic in sight, the online learning environment is going to once again be front-and-center for many students in schools all around the US. Many schools can’t go back absolutely normal, 100% in-person learning because it would be impossible to social distance.
Some schools are opening this fall with remote-only learning while others are adopting a hybrid strategy that switches groups of students between in-person and online learning to facilitate social distancing. And every school will have to be ready to quickly switch to all-remote learning if conditions worsen or there’s an outbreak at a school. In other words, some amount of online learning is practically guaranteed for most students across the country, which begs the question of how to keep students engaged in online schooling.
Teachers and Parents Can Help with Student Engagement
Online learning from home is a challenge for every educator, and just about every teacher learned this when schools everywhere abruptly shifted to distance learning for the last few months of the previous school year. Many had to make the switch with very little or no experience in teaching classes online. Everyone did the best they could. Now teachers are preparing for another round of online education with at least some experience to draw upon. Now is the time to more carefully consider how to increase student engagement during online schooling, and both teachers and parents have a role to play in making it the best experience possible for all students.
Online Learning Student Engagement Tips for Teachers
Everyone has heard the phrase variety is the spice of life, and the same can be said for education. Most people have had the painful experience of a boring teacher in the traditional classroom setting at some point during their education. So, what can instructors do to keep learners engaged during online class? Here are some tips, strategies, and ideas:
- Simplify: In the online education environment, it’s important to focus in on essential skills and concepts. It’s not about making anything easier, it’s about prioritizing. This simplification also applies to choices you make about how students will demonstrate learning.
- Be Creative: Instead of focusing on the constraints and everything you can’t do, leverage those instead into a whole new level of creativity to make remote instruction both fun and engaging. Every lesson, every activity, and every assignment is an opportunity to be creative.
- Know Your Tech: Teachers need to put in the time to make sure they understand the technologies they can use and how they work, including the primary learning platform and any supplemental platforms that will be used. Pay attention to lighting, quality of audio, and all the nuts-and-bolts pieces of creating a quality online virtual learning classroom.
- Leverage Technology: When you have a solid understanding of the technologies at your disposal, then you can really make the most of them to keep students engaged. Cool Zoom backgrounds, great music for transitions, and all sorts of things are available and can be used to boost student engagement.
- Model Learning: If you’re not excited, passionate, and curious about the content, engaging students will be all the more challenging. Show them what it looks like to be curious and engaged in learning.
- Participation: Design your lessons and activities so that they require engagement and participation rather than just hoping students will participate and engage.
- Plan for Murphy’s Law: The thing about technology is that it’s great when it works, and frustrating when it doesn’t. Expect something to go wrong and have a plan in place for how you’ll deal with the possible glitches that might happen.
- Voice and Choice: For high school learners, make sure there is plenty of opportunity for students to step up and direct their own learning and how they will show what they’ve learned. Empower self-learning and independent learning whenever possible.
- Breakout Rooms: Be sure to create these in advance and how you plan on using them for small groups of students collaborating on learning activities.
Focusing on student engagement is both more challenging and yet also more important in the virtual education environment. Trying to cover everything in your curriculum should give way to fostering engagement and prioritizing key concepts and skills.
What Parents Can Do to Help Online Student Engagement
When it comes to the role parents can play in student engagement with distance learning, it is one mostly of education management and adult supervision. Here are some tips for parents around keeping students engaged during online learning:
- Phones Away: Unless the teacher has explicitly said it would needed (which is highly unlikely), make it a ground rule that your learner’s smartphone must be powered all the way down and put away during online learning sessions.
- Routines: In a hybrid model, each remote learning day isn’t to be treated like it’s a Saturday. It’s going to be a school day like any other except they’re participating from home instead of at school. They need get up and get ready and eat a good breakfast and all the other normal routines they go through on a school day, they just won’t leave the house to go to school.
- Learning Environment: Make it clear that students in your house will sit at a desk or table during online class sessions. Do what you can to minimize distractions during classes and make sure they can get connected and that everything is working at least 5-10 minutes ahead of the scheduled start time.
Successful online education during the pandemic will require both teachers and parents to be as involved as possible in maintaining student engagement. Working together, it’s more than possible to make it happen.
Achieve Virtual Education Academy Knows Student Engagement
We have many years of experience delivering quality, highly engaging online high school learning through the virtual classroom. Achieve Virtual is approved and accredited by the state of Indiana Department of Education and managed through the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township. Our online high school classes are open to every high school student across the state, and every course is taught by a real Indiana teacher whose top priority is providing the support each student needs to succeed.
Need more information about Achieve Virtual and our online high school program? Start with Why Online High School? Be sure to read through the five subsections listed in the purple boxes on the right-hand side of that page. Also check the Achieve Virtual Blog for recent articles you’ll want to read. Registration is Now Open for 2020, but space is limited, so be sure to enroll now if you think your high school student would benefit from our program. To reach us directly for any questions you may have about online high school at Achieve Virtual, just call our telephone number, 317-988-7144, and we’ll be more than happy to speak with you!