7 Ways to Increase Online Student Engagement
According to Global Student Network, public schools are spending over 3 billion each year on digital content. Online learning is increasing at an astounding rate for K-12 students. There are, however, several unique challenges related to digital education. One area of concern is keeping students actively engaged throughout the course. The following are seven effective ways to increase online student engagement in the learning process.
1. Present Clear Objectives
Students need to understand exactly what is expected of them before starting a course. They need to know what materials or skills they are expected to master and what steps they'll take to reach these goals. Fuzzy objectives will make it difficult for even the most motivated students to become fully engaged.
The eLearning Industry states that it's necessary to understand the difference between learning objectives and learning goals. Learning goals are broad terms that state what learners will be taught to do after a course is complete. Learning objectives, however, should be measurable and specific.
2. Provide Interesting Introductory Activities
Getting off to a good start is crucial whether it's in a classroom or online. Initial activities should have short, clear instructions and be visually stimulating. While a starter activity should be engaging, it should also be relatively easy. If at all possible, students should experience success early in the course.
There are several fun, yet educational activities that can be beneficial at the beginning of almost any online course. The Illinois Online Network suggests a scavenger hunt that can be fun while boosting a student's online searching ability. Other good ideas include activities that help students in the class get to know each other and activities that involve gamification.
3. Increase Instructor Presence
An instructor needs to be intentional about promoting an online presence when teaching a digital course. There are several ways you can become more involved with your students.
- Provide Introductory Videos: Create a short video introducing yourself, provide ways for students to contact you, and clearly state your expectations for the course.
- Create Discussion Boards: A discussion board can be as casual or formal as you want to make it. It can be set up in a question-answer format or in a conversation style about specific topics.
- Answer Emails Promptly: This may seem simplistic, but unfortunately not all instructors respond to their students in a timely manner. If possible, you should answer texts and emails within a day or two.
- Maintain Your Presence: It's easy to start off well and then reduce the level of engagement through the course. Make sure to continue to post videos, upload photos, and stay current with discussions until the end of the course.
4. Promote Appropriate Social Media Engagement
Almost all online students are involved at some level in social media. Connecting learning with aspects of social media will increase engagement as well as broaden the scope of a student's learning experience.
- Facebook: Use Facebook to present questionnaires, quizzes, and a variety of material related to the course.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn can be used both professionally and socially. Discussion groups can be formed on this platform on virtually any topic.
- Twitter: Use Twitter to connect students when studying or accessing a specific event or topic. Students can post pictures, share ideas, and make comments.
- YouTube: Post tutorials and videos for free on YouTube. Students can also leave comments and rate the videos they view.
5. Build the Learning Community
Involving social media is one aspect of building the learning community. There are, however, many other options that can be included. Online discussions are not only great tools to increase instructor presence but also help bring together the entire community of online learners. It's important to balance personalized learning with the right amount of student collaboration.
You'll need to choose the right platform for the course and each specific group of learners. It's also necessary to establish online rules for etiquette as early as possible. It's important that differences of opinion be respected without disparaging comments or attacks. Finally, you'll need to determine how much guidance the group needs. You may want to prepare specific questions or discussion topics. You may also decide to appoint student leaders to guide discussions.
6. Present Bite-Sized Instruction
Microlearning matches how most people obtain and process information. Students that repetitively receive short bits of information can improve their overall comprehension rates. Bite-sized instruction, however, needs to be specific and relevant to be effective. It also should be personalized.
You'll want to break down as much instruction as possible into five to fifteen minute segments. Each segment should focus on a single objective. A few specific ways to do this include engaging infographics that blend text, images, and graphics. Short games, quizzes, and slideshows are also effective ways to present specific snippets of material.
7. Provide Timely and Effective Feedback
Successful digital learning requires continual feedback and ongoing evaluation. This is especially important if you're incorporating microlearning. Feedback should also include self-assessment. This gives students the opportunity to take ownership of their learning.
You'll need to incorporate feedback into your learning management system. If your system doesn't provide a method for video or verbal feedback you may need to use a free online program. Some aspects of good feedback methods are the same whether you're in a traditional classroom or online. According to Florida Tech, successful feedback should be professional, focused on facts, and should offer solutions.
For students to be as engaged as possible, effective strategies need to be put in place at the very beginning of each course. Following each of these steps will help you create a digital course that promotes increased online student engagement and long-term learning success.
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