As a result of the pandemic, many schools and universities transitioned students to remote learning. Unlike in a traditional classroom, the instructor and students are not together in the same physical location during remote learning. Usually, students and instructors communicate on their computers via video call in a remote environment, but asynchronous courses don’t have a meeting component. Students and teachers enjoy the benefits of this method as students can participate from anywhere and time spent commuting to work or school is eliminated.
While remote learning is more flexible than the traditional classroom setup, it can be difficult for students to build interpersonal connections in the digital classroom, especially during asynchronous remote courses. These connections are critical to student success, with studies indicating that students are more likely to engage during class and take responsibility for their learning when they feel personally connected to their peers in their online learning environment.
To reach disconnected, unengaged students, instructors can use virtual tools to engage students in their courses and foster relationships with other students. Let’s get started!
1. Virtual Fundraising Programs
Fundraising is vital for both schools and universities. At K-12 schools, teachers, staff, and students may rely on fundraising revenue for classroom supplies or field trips. In higher ed settings, universities might fundraise on behalf of nonprofits or causes they are passionate about or for their own programs. In both cases, holding class- or institution-wide fundraisers can help bring about a sense of connection among students by having them work together to benefit a worthy cause.
If you have the option to choose a fundraising idea for your class, ask students to weigh in before settling on a cause. After all, they are more likely to participate in fundraisers for reasons they are passionate about and structured in a fun way. Here are a few ideas for gathering ideas and student feedback for your fundraiser:
- Highlight several local nonprofits and ask students to vote for the one they’d like to support.
- Send out a survey before class asking students what causes they are passionate about, then select a fundraiser that aligns with the most popular one.
- Allow students to present nonprofits they support to the class as a “request” for support.
Make sure the fundraising method you choose to raise money through is accessible. In other words, students should not have significant time or resources to participate. For instance, according to Funds2Orgs, shoe drive fundraisers are one of the most inclusive, accessible fundraising methods because students can simply give a pair of their gently worn, used or new shoes that they already have in their closet rather than making a financial donation.
2. Registration Software
Class registration is essential in managing remote learning and increasing your bandwidth to provide quality education. A smooth registration process also makes life easier for your students and gives them a positive first impression of your course, getting them excited about learning. Plus, they’ll benefit from the extra time you can spend hosting office hours or giving them in-depth feedback on an essay or project.
If your online course is not associated with a school or university, investing in reliable registration software is even more critical. Your prospective students are likely comparing your program against other similar courses, and having an easy-to-navigate registration process could mean they choose your course over the competition.
Look for registration software that makes life easier for you as an instructor. According to CommunityPass, your registration solution should have features like scheduling capabilities, attendance tracking, communication tools, and reporting features in addition to facilitating enrollment. Registration software takes these administrative tasks off your plate to give you more time to plan content, develop engaging learning activities, provide additional support to students, and provide a better student experience overall.
3. Learning Platform
A learning platform is essential for online classrooms. And that’s true whether you’re instructing an online course that teaches students soft skills they’ll need in their careers or an intro-level geography course at a university. Your learning platform organizes the course’s content, hosts key resources, and delivers tests, quizzes, and projects.
In addition to keeping assignments, lectures, and resources organized, learning platforms can help students track deadlines and engage with your course. Here are a few ways your learning management system can boost student engagement online:
- Hosting discussion forums. Without in-person learning opportunities and extracurricular activities like sports or band, you have to get creative with building community in the virtual classroom. With an online discussion forum, you can encourage students to write about their opinions and takeaways from the course content, share them with their classmates, and interact with other students. Not only do discussion posts require students to engage more deeply with content, but they can also learn about new perspectives from their peers.
- Facilitating group projects. Group projects are a great way to encourage students to engage with their peers outside of class and work together to understand and apply content to real-life scenarios. For instance, students in an advertising course may work together to create an advertising campaign for a genuine brand. You can leverage your learning management system to create these groups, track their progress, and schedule required group meetings.
- Gathering feedback. You can easily post surveys on your learning management platform to ask students about what’s going well in the course and what could be improved. The benefits of student feedback are twofold. First, students will feel acknowledged if they see their suggestions implemented in your class. Second, by implementing student feedback, you can tweak your course to be more engaging for students and fit their unique learning needs.
A robust learning management system can also help you stay organized and keep in touch with students. For instance, you might send out text and email reminders about upcoming assignments and tests or field questions from students through your learning management platform.
4. In-Class Polling Tools
In-class polling tools like Tophat or Kahoot are popular tools instructors use to create more interactive learning spaces. Not only do these tools require little time and effort from instructors, but they are also highly effective. Studies show that mobile polling tools positively impact student engagement, potentially leading to higher retention rates and more robust academic performance.
In your remote course, you can use these tools to take attendance and gauge students’ mastery of course content. Some instructors use these polls as knowledge checks when teaching new content, polling students throughout a lecture to understand how well they know the new material. Another option is to create a series of questions similar to those on an upcoming test or quiz to help students prepare.
Regardless of your chosen method, polls can help you increase engagement and boost student participation because they switch students from passive listeners to active participants.
During virtual learning, one of the most important factors to consider is ensuring students feel involved in the course. That means you’ll need to get creative and use various tools and teaching methods to engage students, including introducing unique fundraisers to the class or assigning group projects. As you introduce these new programs and tools into your virtual classroom, remember to always keep accessibility, inclusivity, and diverse representation at the forefront of your mind.