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Improving learner engagement in online sessions

By January 12, 2021January 15th, 2021No Comments

Trying to find ways to improve learner engagement in synchronous sessions? Plenty of resources are available to help you maximize meaningful interaction in a digital learning space (see  Online Teaching + Learning), but Boland and Major (2021) keep it simple focusing on the human element of online learning:

1) Welcome students by name.

This serves as a check to ensure audio and video are working, and provides a few minutes before the start of class for personal interaction.

2) Start with something fun

Don’t jump straight into a lecture. Start with an activity or short problem that encourages learners to share their thoughts in chat and ignite active learning.

3) Include activities throughout the session.

Break up a lecture with periodic knowledge checks, polls, or other activities that encourages student participation throughout the session.

4) Communicate how you will call on learners ahead of time.

Use a single strategy throughout the semester. For example, have them share their answers in chat at the same time so that everyone’s answers are their own. Discussions of sensitive topics can be done using tools such as Padlet to allow for anonymity.

5) Communicate how you want students to ask questions.

 Do you want learners to raise their hand, ask in chat, or use another strategy? A general Padlet page could be used for anonymous questions. Let them know from the start of the semester.

6) Use breakout rooms intentionally.

Think about the nature of the activity and ensure breakout numbers facilitate that activity. Try to keep breakout rooms to no larger than five learners.

7) Give clear instructions for breakout activities.

Make sure you have a specific learning goal and let learners know your expectations. Give learners time warnings to ensure they can wrap up their thoughts before sharing with the larger class.

8) Enjoy the silence.

Pauses in lectures allows learners to process information. Stay positive if met with silence after posing a question, and give your learners the space and time to consider the question and formulate responses.

9) Record lectures intentionally.

You may record lectures by default so that learners who missed a session are able to catch up. Be mindful if you have learners in different countries – consider alternative ways of capturing a lecture if sensitive topics or topics censored in different regions are going to be discussed.

The original article is published in The Teaching Professor. The Teaching Professor is a subscription-based collection of resources designed with the goal of improving the quality of post-secondary teaching and learning.

Boland, L. M., & Major, C. H. (2021, January 11) Simple tips for engaging students in Zoom. The Teaching Professor.

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