By Kelli Drummer-Avendano
Keeping students engaged during summer classes is hard enough when it’s face-to-face, but online learning can be even more challenging. Who wants to sit inside at a computer when the weather is nice? Fortunately, there are proven techniques for improving student interest and participation, even when the sun is shining and the outdoors is calling.
- Provide choices
Giving students a sense of ownership over what they’re learning or how they’re delivering their assignments can be very motivating. In general, people feel incentivized to do well when they have a choice, rather than being told exactly what to do. This could be as simple as letting students decide the topic of their research project or how they’ll present the material.
- Ask for feedback
Instructors often ask for feedback as students are finishing up a class, but allowing students to voice opinions and provide suggestions about the course before it’s over will keep them engaged along the way. Furthermore, it sets a good example about being open to change and constructive criticism. Students will understand that you’re invested in the success of the class when you’re willing to listen to their ideas.
Variety is the spice of life … and of online learning! Seriously, don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit. Provide instruction through a combination of audio, video, text, and live presentations, if possible. Don’t forget virtual field trips either. These enjoyable experiences give students a break from the “classroom” routine. Get creative and think outside the screen. Brainstorm activities your students could do that don’t involve sitting in front of a computer, like interviewing a professional in the field, for example.
- Get to know your students
Give students the opportunity to introduce themselves beyond just the basics of name and location. Play an icebreaker game such as “two truths and a lie,” or have everyone (including you) share an embarrassing or funny story from their childhood. These get-to-know-you activities could be done by video or discussion board if live sessions aren’t possible. Most importantly, they should be fun, unintimidating, and interactive.