Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How to Encourage Student Engagement in Online Classrooms

Online classrooms are an increasingly popular modality in higher education. Because online informational channels are completed in a virtual world it can be difficult to connect with students in a way that is meaningful. Despite its difficulty this connection is a vitally important aspect of encouraging student success in terms of retention, satisfaction, and learning.

Engaging students is about trying to connect with them on a personal level and this can be difficult if you are not standing face-to-face with them and have enough interaction to learn about their interests. Even though it may require new skills the online modality does provide a sufficient platform to engage students on a personal level.

Read Student Profiles:

Students love to talk about themselves, what is going on in their lives, their pets, and their experiences. Reading through their profile will provide an elevator snap shot of the student and how they want to be seen by others in class. Refer back to these profiles and try and find ways to bring in their experience or interests when corresponding.

For example, a student who worked as a clerk might learn better when the professor gives appropriate examples. Another student may have a few dogs and corresponding or providing related material that discuss pet stores, breeding, dog supplies, etc… will certainly spark the student’s interest more than a boring worn out story problem.

Read Between the Lines:

The only real way to assess student learning is to investigate what they currently understand. This requires paying close attention to discussion conversation  and reading between lines to form a model of their understanding. Offering information and discussion that furthers their model that bridges gaps in knowledge is beneficial.

Because students are still learning how to communicate fully in written form it may take additional effort to put together the pieces to grasp their true understanding. Try and take where they left off and push their understanding with appropriate questions. Students will notice the extra effort and signalling that their education is important and they should spend additional effort on it.

Address Students as Individuals:

Students like to be treated as individuals. Sometimes it is beneficial to address the entire class while at other times you will do better using the student's first name. The more often you can personalize your feedback, questions, and greetings the more it tells the student they matter. Personalization in turn helps the student feel as though they are getting one-on-one consideration.

Provide Substantive Feedback:

Feedback offers an opportunity to connect with students that are seeking to improve upon their skills. The professor becomes the authority and guide which has an impact on student perceptions of guidance. Feedback is another method of helping students find importance with their coursework and put additional effort into it.

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