The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it significant changes to how we live, work and learn. All of a sudden, online learning became the only way to keep the educational system moving. For many educators, the transition to online learning represents a significant challenge as it requires a new set of skills different from in person teaching. Here are three ways you could enhance student engagement if you find yourself struggling to do so when teaching online. 

Deliver bite-sized, spaced learning.

The significance of spaced learning in enhancing student retention rates is a well-established concept found in textbooks. In the context of online classes, implementing a strategy of delivering concise, focused lessons followed by interactive activities, with each segment lasting approximately 10 minutes, can effectively promote effective learning. This structured approach can then be repeated throughout the entirety of the class, ensuring optimal engagement and comprehension.

Introducing regular activities will keep students engaged as they will have to be actively involved in the lesson rather than passively listening. The activities could include having students answer questions, search for information online based on a prompt you provide, compile brief written summaries on what was just discussed or watch a video and share their thoughts. This approach has the benefit of also giving the instructor a break, afterall how long can you really talk to your computer screen for?

Be flexible in instruction and assessments

This will mean a deviation from what you are used to, but as the mode of education evolves, so should your arsenal as an educator. You can make use of audio, video, screen casts, diagrams, pre-recordings and so on. You could record classes for students to watch and listen in their own time so that the contact hours can be used to offer clarity or listen to group presentations from students. 

Making the sharing and presenting of work a regular feature during your classes, encourages students to be proactive. These presentations could form part of their assessments to ensure full participation. You could also give students options regarding the format in which to submit their assessments (audio, write up, video, recorded presentation etc).  This sense of responsibility encourages ownership of the process and with that, enhanced engagement.

Use available tools

When teaching online, it is not easy to get a sense of students comprehension as you could have done by gauging the room during in person classes. This is where it is important to take advantage of the inbuilt tools in a lot of platforms used for teaching. 

For example students can be asked to use the emojis to describe their understanding of the class so far or a quick poll can be used to ask students questions for immediate feedback. “Yes” or “No” questions can be responded to using the “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” feature. The whiteboard is also available for teachers who like to maintain flexibility in the delivery of their online class. 

Written by Prince Teye-Gaga