Tips & Tricks to Make Your Online Classroom More Engaging

One of the most difficult things about distance learning is keeping students engaged and creating a warm, inviting atmosphere for online classes.

Edutopia.com recently outlined tips for engaging students when teaching online. Here are a few of my favorites.

Show Yourself

  • Your physical presence, warmly represented, provides key support to your students, so maintain eye contact and talk in a relaxed, friendly tone.
  • Set up your physical space so that your face is easily visible and warmly lit.

Relationships are the foundation of learning, and humans naturally look at each other’s faces in order to understand what is happening. Make sure your students can see your face to foster connection and engagement.

Ask Questions

  • Survey your students often on what they need to feel engaged and connected. Provide ways for them to give anonymous feedback and to be heard.
  • Build in frequent opportunities for engagement during your lesson by asking for thumbs up, thumbs down, or one-word answers in your meeting’s chat window, for example. Pause and ask students to check in with how they are feeling, and let them provide a silent gesture or signal that reflects how they are doing. Check-ins do not need to be long to be effective.

The more we ask students to share their opinions or provide feedback, the more engaged they will be. Zoom has a number of features that promote active learning, including polls, reaction icons, and the whiteboard. You can also use timers and encourage fidgeting to keep students engaged.

Stay Organized

  • If you’re distracted during your lesson, students will pick up on that, so have everything you need ready. Struggling to find files, links, or browser tabs can cause your stress level to rise, which students will feel and mirror.

Staying organized is a common challenge when teaching, whether in your classroom or online. Your students will benefit from clearly defined organizational strategies that keep the lesson moving fluidly.

If something goes wrong, own it. Students often do not understand how adults create and maintain organizational strategies. Share how your systems for organizing time and materials are evolving. Ask students how they are adapting their own organizational strategies.

Have you found it difficult to engage students online? What strategies have helped you create a more inviting online classroom? Let us know in the comments!

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager

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