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Increasing student engagement in online courses ―challenges and recommendations

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With the rise of online courses after the pandemic breakout, students and teachers also found that online education can be more efficient from the comfort of their homes, but with few exceptions. Being unable to focus during online school has been a real problem for all students as multiple distractions were around them. But the most challenged were teachers, whose efforts and interests were merely compared to the amount of homework and information imposed. That’s because the educational system failed during those years, with protests from both sides.


Some say that the pandemic wiped off two decades of progress in how schoolchildren were instructed, as recent tests showed how badly kids perform at math and reading, for example. But, while teachers didn’t have enough power to monitor the kids, most parents couldn’t afford to stay home with kids and guide them better.


All these factors led to people having a lack of understanding regarding teachers’ efforts, which is yet another hit that can affect their willingness to stay in the system. Having a brief insight into how to overcome challenges in online schooling might provide some help.


Setting expectations

Maybe one of the worst expectations teachers and parents have for kids is that staying at home gives them more time to spend on classes or homework. This is far from the truth because kids still need time for other activities and leisure, from playing outside to sleeping or simply having time to connect with their friends. The pandemic led to more isolation among young adults, leading to anxiety or depression symptoms.


Considering the past situation, teachers can try setting expectations that can align with students’. This means engaging with them before the start of the course and sending them all the information required on scheduling, textbooks and course availability. Clearly defining assignment due dates is also posting course policies in the syllabus and the online course necessary.


Building engagement

Engaging with students distracted by their phones or doing something else on their computers is difficult to tackle. Online courses must be varied enough to offer a ground for discussion, but students should also feel comfortable enough to share their ideas. Starting by providing interactive lessons and learning objects will ensure students that any of their questions can be answered and knowledge lacuna can be avoided.


Games or activities that help students engage with each other are also important. You can ask them to think of an interesting question for one of their colleagues that doesn’t necessarily require all the things discussed during the lesson but can be linked with current world events or news associated with the information.


Enhance critical thinking

Critical thinking may be one of the last elements that students favor in online courses. Most of the time, they prefer questions whose answers are already imprinted in their minds and simple things to tackle. However, during the pandemic, people with critical thinking were scarce, which is what led to the whole panic in the nations.


Helping your students to think critically in an online environment is even more challenging than in regular settings. Still, you can provide a pattern for them to learn in matters of ways to approach things differently. While asking questions might not always be effective, working in groups and inspiring creativity constantly may spark students’ courage to be more active. Even having a brainstorming session at the beginning of the lesson is helpful.


Initiate interaction

The interaction seems forced if it comes by requirement. However, interaction won’t happen either at school or online if it’s not guided. Students can easily create a wall of silence between them and the teacher, which can be a way to protect themselves when they’re uncertain or afraid to contribute to the class.


Coming across as friendly and allowing them to know things about you can be helpful. For example, you can start by telling them your favorite music genre, a dish you like or something related to your field, such as a country you consider beautiful or a historical event. It’s all about building a bridge between the two teams that can be used as a way for students to be comfortable.

Another efficient way to promote interaction is by offering frequent and interactive feedback. If you have many students, this might be challenging, but in classes with fewer kids, it would be best to upgrade your feedback game to eliminate any confusions the students have.


Foster an inclusive environment

Getting to know more about your students will create a better environment for both parties. Giving them opportunities to talk about their hobbies, personal experiences, and motivations offers you exceptional insight into how they’re evolving. Depending on your student’s category, you can take a better approach to guide them.


Highlighting their experiences (but scholarly achievements as well) may encourage them to become more immersed in their favorite subjects or just change their goals and strive for more from themselves. Try not to make assumptions too fast without knowing them well because you may lose their trust.


Have fun

Most of all, try to have fun! We know being a teacher is stressful, and you must create educational materials every day and pull students out of their boredom. However, if the subject you teach allows it, try to have fun teaching and do things your way to make the experience more unique.


Students seize when teachers are happy coming to school or not and adapt their attitude accordingly. However, if the work environment doesn’t permit it, you don’t have to go to class all smiley and “fake it ‘till you make it” because, after all, we’re humans. But enjoying what you do is a big plus in controlling your class and making everyone happy to be included.


Final thoughts

Online courses have plenty of advantages, from making economies in regard to transportation to using technology. However, handling online courses as a teacher is the most challenging because you need to keep students engaged at all times to yield great results.

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