4 Student Engagement Strategies for Effective Blended Learning
Student engagement is key to successful blended learning
Student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education. Effectively engaging students in the learning process increases their focus, motivates them to approach lessons using higher-level thinking skills, and encourages them to take ownership of their own learning. Tackling student engagement in the blended learning environment differs from the traditional classroom, but the basic methods hold true across the board. Let’s take a look at four foundational strategies that can help increase student engagement for effective blended learning.
1. Create a collaborative virtual community.
According to a study by the Online Learning Consortium, fostering a community in the blended classroom is one of the most important strategies to increase and improve student engagement. Staying connected to their peers when they’re not in a physical classroom allows students to share information, review and leave feedback on each other’s work, collaborate on assignments, and build relationships. Synchronous class meetings using Zoom or other video conferencing are a piece of the puzzle, but don’t forget about discussion boards on your learning management system (LMS) and other tech tools that allow students to communicate and teachers to monitor that communication.
Sometimes, teachers spend an entire virtual class meeting lecturing, then record it for students to review on their own time later. Instead, use the time you have with your students during a virtual class meeting to solve a problem together, collaborate on projects, or do guided practice. If we want students to be engaged in the blended learning environment, it must be meaningful.
2. Design your blended learning curriculum with shorter, more engaging content.
Using LMS tools to provide shorter and more engaging content is an ideal way to engage students in blended learning. Video lectures that are longer in length are often disregarded, which can increase the possibility of students missing important information. Shorter and more lively interactive content has been proven to engage the virtual student and further expand student interaction.
When it comes to blended learning and engagement, the key is to always think outside the box. In today's society, especially since COVID-19, students are craving information and trained to look for it in its fastest, most concise forms. Consider chunking your content. Chunking simply means breaking down content into smaller pieces that are easier for the brain to digest. Organize content in a logical way that guides the learning process without complicating it.
3. Set goals and reflect regularly.
Students need to be aware of what they’re learning, why they’re learning it, and their progress toward meeting standards. Teachers should build in frequent opportunities, both individually and as a class, to set S.M.A.R.T. goals and reflect on what students have learned. Using these measurable, student-centered goals, students become more responsible for their own learning, rather than simply passive participants in what they’re taught. Use goal setting and reflection in the physical classroom and the virtual classroom to create personal connections to student’s individual learning goals. This way, students will understand that even though the setting may change, the purpose of learning is consistent.
4. Constructive and timely feedback cultivates lasting student engagement.
Feedback is essential in any course, but especially in the blended learning environment where distance can have an impact on how students relate to the instructor and each other. Be sensitive to the individual needs of each student, but don’t hesitate to clearly communicate your expectations and aspirations to them. One of the most motivating feedback tactics is praise, but don’t offer meaningless praise just to win students over. Instead, praise should be focused, honest, and based directly on what you’ve observed. Make the feedback process part of the weekly routine with your blended learning students. This way, giving feedback is not only expected, but always timely. If we wait too long to provide constructive feedback, students may not connect the feedback with the action.
Ultimately, successful blended learning educators are focusing on student engagement as they work toward student achievement during the transition to our new normal. We have the unique opportunity now to not reproduce a system that has historically not served all students. Instead, we must look to innovative ways to keep students ahead of the curve and lead them to success—and it all starts with engagement.