Teachers all around the world have had to close up their classrooms and begin teaching online. Petra Ives, professor at San Diego City College and founder of Lime & Co, has been teaching online classes for two semesters, so we have asked her to share her top tips for keeping students engaged through remote learning.
1 | Record Videos
Students would rather see a video than read a long message, so record your weekly announcements by speaking into the camera and also writing it all down. This puts a face in front of the students, makes it more personable, and gives you a chance to elaborate on a few points.
2 | Keep A Regular Schedule
Stick to a regular schedule so that students know when they can expect announcements from you and when assignments are due. I welcome my students every Monday morning, check-in on Wednesday morning, and sign off on Friday afternoon. Assignments are due at midnight Sunday, and by Thursday, I expect comments. This is pretty much the same every single week.
3 | Use Concise Language
I keep my announcement and weekly task lists to a minimum amount of words, use lots of bullet points, format all my text, so it is easy to follow along and digest. I also embed a lot of the videos, images, and links right there in the flow of the text.
4 | Use Empathy and Humor
Once in a while, I send additional video messages where I don’t even talk much about the assignment and course content but just wish them a good spring break, or in a situation like this Corona crisis, I check in on them to see how they are doing. I keep it lighthearted, share some tidbits about my weekend plans or how my life changed during this quarantine, and sometimes use silly filters in my video, like a bunch of toilet rolls on my head.
5 | Encourage Comments
I encourage my students to comment on announcements and also reply to fellow students’ comments to create some sense of class camaraderie. At the beginning of the semester, I always have silly icebreaker questions that loosen everybody up and give the students a chance to show their personality.
6 | Give Feedback
Students want to be seen and have their work recognized, so I make sure I comment on each submission and comment, even if it sometimes is only a “like.” After each project, I gather the strongest work and post it with the students’ names and ask them if I can use it for future class examples. Most students give me permission and feel flattered, and it also creates a sense of competition for an extra boost of effort.
7 | Have Frequent Check-ins
If I see students being absent or falling behind, I check in with them often to encourage them to continue or work something out. Sometimes it is hard to imagine the “real-life” person on the other side of the screen, and this helps to break down barriers and show that I care.
8 | Ask for Feedback
I often ask my students for their opinion, if something is working or not, and ask them to leave comments. I want to actively include them in the process of the class, learn from them, and improve for future courses.
9 | Give Plenty of Lead-Time
Most students signed up for online teaching for a reason— they are busy with full-time jobs, have family, or take care of family members, or have a full load of classes. So it is essential to give students enough lead-time and notice before things are due.
If you’re teaching or leading a team of online learners, these tips to maximize student engagement are sure to get you going in the right direction. Do you have tips for classroom management or distance learning? Contact us today and share your experience with our community!
This article was written by Petra Ives, Professor at San Diego City College, Owner of Lime & Co and WFHer for 16 years.