Education Opinion

Instructor-Facilitated Online Learning: How to Maximize Your Virtual Student Engagement

By Starr Sackstein — April 05, 2015 4 min read
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Guest post by Academy of Learning College

Instructors that have taught online, have at one time or another felt limited because they do not have eye contact with their students.

They cannot tell if they are awake or paying attention. There are times they ask questions or request feedback but they get no response in return.

On the other hand, even the most motivated student can be turned off if they are not being engaged. To be able to maximize engagement online, there are several tactics that can be used.

You will want to consider your skills as an instructor, technology, instructional design, manager support, and learner motivation. Below are some strategies that can help maximize student engagement in the instructor-facilitated online learning and teaching environment.

Open all avenues of communication

Some of the students may prefer whiteboard tools or chat to communicate. You need to keep these avenues open and encourage the students to use it.

Let the students choose the teaching mediums that they prefer such as interactive reading materials, audio recordings, graphs or images as this will make the students more motivated and engaged.

The students of today are used to immediate responses and feedback. Technology has made it easy for instructors to avail data to the students instantly. When students are given access to this data, they are empowered to take ownership of their learning experience.

Instructor presence

As a facilitator, you need to be actively involved in the learning process of your students. Always be available to give the lecture and answer the questions that the students have. However, in the discussion boards you need to minimize your contributions as this may be intimidating to the students reducing their engagement.

Being involved in the social phenomenon is a good idea as it will help you to translate the virtual lessons to impressions. It is necessary that as an instructor you be part of social media as it is an important component that will help keep the students engaged.

Use information that the students provide

More often than not you will run a poll and never incorporate the results into the conversation. This may make the students feel that the interaction was not relevant. To avoid this, strongly connect the contributions and feedback into the content giving the percentages of the poll and begin conversation to discuss the results

Give the students activities to undertake ever few minutes

Asking for constant interaction will make the student feel that their presence in the virtual class makes a difference. These activities can be breaking into groups, interacting with technology, reading or speaking. In the virtual class if you have been speaking for more than five minutes you will be saying too much.

Use the name of the students

The students will want to engage more in the virtual classroom when you call them by their names as they are made to feel important.

Do not focus on technology but on the content

It is so easy to get caught up complaining about the issues of virtual classrooms, firewalls, breakout rooms, or polls that you may have taken. This is quite distracting and will turn the students off who will not be inclined to enjoy the class. As a facilitator, you need to reduce the technology talk and keep in truck with the relevant content related to what you are teaching.

Give every student a voice

The opportunity for the student to respond to what they are learning is related to their achievements academically. So the more the opportunity to respond to the content, the better understanding they have. Online discussion boards give students the ability to contribute to discussions. Students have different styles of making their contributions and with the latest tools, they are able to have multiple conversations at a go.

Real-time formative assessments

Tools like Wall Wisher are ideal for formative assessments. As an instructor, you need to have creative ways so students can answer essential questions when the lesson ends. The ability of the students to answer the questions is one way to engage the students as well as assess how the students are learning.

Implementation of these simple strategies will go a long way in ensuring the students are engaged more and have a better experience in the virtual class. There is a need to create classrooms where the students can explain and defend their ideas rather than regurgitate what has been said by others in the past so they can stay engaged.

This article is a guest post courtesy of Academy of Learning College, a career and business college that offers over 30 diploma programs, at over 50 locations across Canada. They are a leader in facilitated and instructor-led online learning and education and have served students and collaborated with instructors for over 25 years.

Image Source: Shutterstock.

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