As many educators found in 2020, engaging students presents a particular challenge in online learning environments. As we prepare to teach and learn online for some time still going forward, the new year offers us an opportunity to reflect on our approach and consider new techniques to practice.
The unique challenge that virtual classrooms pose in 2021 means some teachers who have made the adjustment to online learning are coming to terms with the realisation that we are perhaps in this for the long haul. Certainly much longer than we would like. In order to rise to this challenge and to deliver the best lessons for their students. Teachers may want to up their game and introduce some new practices into their toolkit to ensure they maximise their students potential and give them the best education possible in this difficult time. So to that end, here we have highlighted some of Mentimeter’s features which are useful for encouraging students to engage in online classes.
By keeping your instructions clear and your tasks simple you help ensure your students keep up with your lesson plan and reduces the chances of students feeling overwhelmed. It can seem counterintuitive, but overwhelming your students with information and presenting them with tasks that are multilayered and complicated can result in a feeling of alienation and anxiety at an already difficult time. By crafting exercises that are straightforward, you increase the chances of it engaging your students. In this regard less is certainly more.
At a time when everyone has been dispersed into their own home and they’re working behind their computer alone, fostering a sense of community in your classroom is more important than ever. Being able to engage the group as a whole, rather than on an individual level, can be hugely beneficial in this regard. Devising tasks that involve smaller group work and making room for relationship building activities can also be especially important. Small group tasks that encourage critical thinking and creative problem solving can serve to increase student ownership and participation in the course. When working remotely it is essential for students to feel comfortable and valued in order to maximise their learning potential.
Knowing whether everyone in the classroom is following along with the content of the lesson can be difficult when you’re all in the same room, this problem is made doubly difficult when the class is hidden behind a computer screen and it is difficult to read body language and to check everyone is really paying attention and engaged. Checking in at regular intervals with even something as simple as “Is this making sense?” can activate your class and keep your lesson on track.
Finally, the easiest and most effective way to get your class energised and engaged is to make things fun! Start the lesson with an Emoji Word Cloud where your students can tell you how they’re feeling today, or how they feel about the topic you’re about to cover. Or you could lay out the topics you want to cover that day and your students can use Mentimeter’s pin on image function to choose where they want to start. Giving your students the autonomy to choose will help to make them more willing to be engaged. Though maybe resist the urge to present to them the entire day’s agenda, because if recess is an option, there’s no prizes for guessing what they’ll choose!
Teaching in a virtual classroom poses a unique challenge for 2021. For teachers and students it is fraught with challenges and stresses that make it difficult to create an engaging learning environment. But by keeping things simple and sticking to the basics, fostering feelings of inclusion and community, checking in regularly, and above all making things fun, you can help ensure your students stay engaged and maximise their potential.