The COVID19 Pandemic has shown clearly that UK education was not ready for an event of this magnitude – now is the time to look forward and use this as the turning point for the overhaul of learning delivery and eventually content.

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How to Keep Students Engaged in the Digital Classroom

August 24, 2020

It’s easy to measure the students’ level of engagement when everyone is in a classroom. The face-to-face interaction, meaningful discussions and Q&A sessions keep students highly engaged. But in an online course, with everyone in front of computers at home, how can teachers foster and maintain engagement?

It’s easy to measure the students’ level of engagement when everyone is in a classroom. The face-to-face interaction, meaningful discussions and Q&A sessions keep students highly engaged. But in an online course, with everyone in front of computers at home, how can teachers foster and maintain engagement?

Transforming traditional classes into digital classrooms

Considering the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brought, this has proven to be an overwhelming process for both educators and students. Asked in a survey done in March-April this year, 31% of students expressed boredom, while 18% declared that their day-to-day life during the lockdown was repetitive.

Educators have had to ask themselves: “how will I teach?”. Will all participants meet via video/audio or chat – all at the same time (synchronous learning)? Will it be the type of course where everyone works separately, at their own pace (asynchronous), or a combination of the two?

The main challenge for educators has been generating an interactive environment in the virtual classroom. Highest levels of engagement in pupils was shown when some kind of personal input from the teacher was present, particularly in video format. The highest quality work from the students came when the highest levels of engagement were present. And this happened in the cases where full video lessons were being produced from the start.

Keeping engagement levels high in the virtual classroom

Implementation of new technologies in order to switch to the digital classroom helped support children’s work and kept engagement levels high in students without the possibility to meet face-to-face.

Self-directed learning, discussion forums and small group work also proved to increase engagement and keep children active.

Innovative websites with modern and non conformist design, hosting video content on YouTube, online training events, smartboards and tablets synchronised in real time via cloud, between teachers and pupils, live streaming lessons or pre-recorded sessions have also been used with success in delivering digital lessons while keeping engagement levels high.

Communication channels for teacher/student engagement

Video length was one of the more important aspects when evaluating engagement levels for either video recordings or live lessons. Bitesize videos of less than 15 minutes and focused on particular topics are better at keeping attention levels high than longer version videos.

From the variety of communication tools, discussion forums proved to maintain engagement at high levels as they are highly interactive and facilitate participation. Teachers can start a discussion and ask students to post thoughtful, meaningful insights in response.

Online discussion tools are recommended for creating a classroom community where meaningful conversations can happen. These give students the chance to engage with each other virtually and have their opinions validated. 

As written opinions and comments are permanent, students have a tendency to be more careful and critical about what they communicate. For more introverted students, online communication is a great way to be more open and discussions can be less intimidating than speaking in front of the class. 

Anonymous posting can be a key factor in helping children express themselves as it helps erasing the fear of judgement or ridicule. 

Give children education and purpose 

Educators have to invest more time and effort in giving the children a sense of purpose, with the ultimate goal of getting them in a position where they see themselves more as active agents in the learning process rather than passive subjects. 

Also, special attention has to be given to the communication between teachers and educational institutions regarding any information they might have about specific requirements for teaching online courses. There might be a set of rules, regulations and best practices already put in place that need to be followed for teaching online courses.

Providing children with the right tools to enhance ownership over the learning process, Kidduu helps them take education in their own hands and take a more active part in their own education process. Children will see themselves as the driver of their learning rather than the passenger.

This way, schools can keep engagement levels as high when working from home as in the classroom by offering children a virtual learning platform.

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