Eight months into a new way of teaching and learning, we are still feeling the pain of an online lesson. Teachers are among the best adapters I know, shifting focus as quick as lightning to meet the needs of their learners. The recent shift to a full (or hybrid) online instruction model certainly came with some challenges. 

Perhaps students failed to log in, or they logged in but “checked out” forgetting to listen and participate. Maybe the technology didn’t work as well as we hoped right away and much more time was spent explaining how to log in, how to mute mics, what is appropriate attire for online learning. Teachers tell stories and share challenges we never would have expected. 

The biggest challenge? Engaging students! 

It’s difficult enough to do when they’re sitting right in front of you, but even more so when they’re at home in pajamas in front of a computer or device and thinking about the Minecraft or TikTok they could be watching instead. As a former, long-time online educator I would like to share a few tips for improving engagement that you can try this week with your online learners!

  1. Emojis for understanding. When students are sitting in front of you, it is easier to check body language and facial expressions to know if the audience is still with you, and taking in the information that you need them to for the day’s lesson. A quick way to do this in Zoom, Google Meet, or another live session learning tool is to ask for emoji checks. “How are you feeling? Rate your understanding using your favorite emoji.” The best part of this tactic (and a few others) in the online environment is that you can screenshot the results from students to check in on later! 
  2. I do. We do. You do. It’s a simple strategy, and one you’ve probably used in the traditional classroom many times. It works for online learners too! Model a new skill, practice the skill together – large group and small group, then allow students an opportunity to practice individually with feedback from you.
  3. Thumbs up, Stand up. A lot of teachers have already started using the thumbs up and thumbs down in a live session.  Another way to get this same result with our kinesthetic learners is to ask them to stand up or sit down to share a response. 
  4. Use media! Students will love you, but they won’t want to hear you speak for 20+ minutes of content. Find some media you can include – a video, a podcast, a game like Quizziz or Kahoot you can share to get the same content message across to learners.
  5. Watch the clock. As we mentioned before, consider your learners and their attention span. At home there are a lot more distractions than in the classroom, so reduce that initial time span by 2-5 minutes. Move from activity to activity to keep those learners engaged in shorter snippets of time.

We can’t wait to see which tip you try this week. Share on our social media and feel free to add your own wonderful and success ideas! 

About the Author:

Misty leads the Vartek’s team of technology integration experts (the “iTeam”) as the Director – Technology Integration. With both a bachelor’s and master’s in education, Misty has 14 years of K-12 classroom experience in both brick and mortar and eSchools. She possesses a post-graduate certification in online and blended learning and has developed content for digital classrooms. Misty has led instructional design efforts at the university level, helping implement a new learning management system at the university. Her background in corporate training has prepared her to lead the design of engaging professional development for Vartek’s partner schools.