Education

9 Ways to Improve Student Engagement in Virtual Learning

Published on February 10, 2022 • Updated on June 7, 2022 • About 6 min. read

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man wearing headphones sitting in front of laptop studying for virtual school

Virtual learning is an exciting area of education and professional training, but it comes with challenges – online learners can become easily distracted, and if your class loses interest or focus, that normally means you’re in for a long, stressful session of teaching.

However, with this rundown of strategies and online teaching tools, you can develop a culture of online student engagement across all your classes, motivate collaboration, and enjoy some stress-free teaching time.

What is student engagement?

Student engagement is the attention, motivation, and interest learners have in your class. You notice it when it’s present, and you notice it even more when it’s not – so before we look at what you can do to improve engagement, why is it so crucial in virtual education?

Why is student engagement important for virtual learning?

woman studying for virtual classroom

Whether they’re in-person or online, engaged students work better, help create an attentive learning environment, and are more likely to retain key information.

But at home or in the workplace – where many of your learners will be joining you from – there are any number of distractions there simply wouldn’t be in a physical classroom. Also, when people are on their devices, there’s a huge temptation for them to turn their attention elsewhere.

This makes online learning engagement strategies a potentially defining factor in the success of your virtual classes and courses. It’s why instructors in online and hybrid learning need to be proactive about bringing them into the virtual classroom.

Read on to see what online engagement strategies you can introduce into your virtual classes.

9 Ways to improve student engagement in your virtual classroom

man wearing headphones taking notes during virtual lesson

Check out our easy-to-implement engagement ideas for virtual and hybrid learning.

Start using fun online engagement tools

The first stop for teachers looking for new ways to engage learners is by putting the right online engagement solutions in place. If you’re struggling for ideas, think about what activities are most successful in your in-person classes, and see what tools would allow you to bring those into your virtual lessons.

Also, if there are tools or apps you consider essential, compare the available options on the basis of their engagement features.

A good example here is video communication software, which is fundamental to teacher-student interaction in the virtual or hybrid classroom – where one very special solution stands out as a video engagement platform.

Here are some of the tools and features that are fun and simple to implement in your day-to-day virtual classroom activities:

Emoji Reactions

livestorm's emoji reactions feature

Your learners will be very used to using emojis in social media and other apps, so bringing them into your virtual classes will feel familiar to them, helping to set the tone for a relaxed, interactive learning environment.

Live polls

In-class polling is quick to set up and you can use this feature in a number of ways – for example, to compare opinions at the start and end of a subject presentation, or to get learners to choose activities and materials.

Question upvotes

As with live polls, question upvotes give your learners a say in the direction their classes take, helping to invest them in topics and discussions.

Virtual whiteboards

If you like using a whiteboard for your traditional classes, you’ll want one for your virtual classes, too. Students can use them to make presentations, explain their thought processes, or brainstorm in groups – and you can use them yourself, just as you would in person.

Breakout rooms

Great for ice-breakers and other group activities, breakout rooms are also a handy way to give yourself some breathing space while the class takes care of itself – just make sure your online teaching platform makes them quick to set up on the fly.

Share your class’s learning objectives

Learners are far more invested in exercises when they understand how they relate to your shared class objectives. So be transparent with your students and at the start of each class, explain what you’ll be covering, why, and what they’ll be able to do as a result.

This is a strong motivating tool for learners that should see them performing activities with a greater sense of purpose.

Encourage participation and discussion

Look for opportunities to get learners talking to each other and exchanging ideas.

For example, you can place small groups of two to four students in breakout rooms and ask them to review a subject you’ve just discussed, compare homework, or decide what questions they’d like to ask you or the rest of the group.

An individual can then report back to the class to summarize their conversations, debates, or results.

Keep collaborative projects simple and trackable

Having learners work on projects together (for example in breakout rooms or with the virtual whiteboard) places them in contact with new perspectives and approaches that can be great for creativity and motivation, but it can also lead to frustration if the chemistry just isn’t right within a group.

So especially at the start of a course, make collaborative projects short and simple, gently building up their complexity over time. This should help learners get used to the best way of working in an online team, and give you a chance to see who works best with who.

If you’re concerned some learners might not contribute as much as others, at the end of a project, you can ask them to fill in a report on each other’s performance. Another solution is for groups to complete their work in a document with version control so you can track everyone’s contributions.

Make sharing and presenting work a regular feature

Create a culture of group communication by having one person report back on a task, project, or piece of homework in each class. Knowing they could be asked to speak for one or two minutes encourages learners to be proactive and engage with your activities and exercises.

Ask concept-checking questions

After you’ve presented a topic or given a set of instructions, create a live poll that asks concept-checking questions to see how well they’ve understood your explanation. This can be a fun way for learners to show what they’ve learned and compare themselves with the rest of the class.

If you do this regularly and make it a feature of your teaching process, students will anticipate a concept-checking question and be more engaged in topics and discussions as a result.

Read the room

Getting a clear sense of how focused or engaged learners are can be a challenge in a virtual setting, but reading the room is still a necessary skill for online classes, so use engagement tools and analytics to help you.

Reaction emojis can give you a glimpse of how into a subject your classes are – if the smiley faces start drying up, you may have lost your audience. Also, with Livestorm you can see how much your class is using other engagement features like live chat and polls, which can also indicate if learners are focused on what they should be.

Related post: 10 Virtual Classroom Rules and Expectations to Practice in 2022

Use mixed media

You can share songs, videos, and slides to vary things up in your classes – surprising students with a short film scene, music video, gif, or meme is a great way to press the reset button and re-engage your audience.

It’s also a good idea to have a bunch of these in reserve for when an activity doesn’t work out or you suddenly need to buy yourself a minute or two to get organized.

Create fun quizzes

A great way to close out a long week or training session, short quick-fire quizzes are always fun, and students enjoy getting competitive when given the chance. You can mix your quizzes up with class topics as well as fun general knowledge, using multimedia to make them more dynamic.

Enjoy stress-free teaching with engaged learners

This teacher is giving a virtual lesson in a quiet space in her home

Motivated, curious, and engaged learners make for a stress-free teaching experience – so using effective strategies to engage your classes should be among your top priorities as an online teacher.

To have attentive, enthusiastic learners throughout your classes, use a video engagement platform with in-built engagement features like virtual whiteboards for front-of-the-class activities, breakout rooms for group work, and live polls to gauge opinion.

Also, share multimedia resources as ice-breakers and to break sessions up, along with fun activities that are always in line with your class’s learning objectives.

With a focused group of learners, everyone can look forward to fantastic virtual classes – even you!

Frequently asked questions about online student engagement

How can I improve student engagement in online courses?

The best way to engage your students in virtual learning is with the best online tools for engagement. If you’re looking for video conferencing technology, choose a video engagement platform like Livestorm where you can use features like reaction emojis, live polls, question upvotes, and virtual whiteboards as part of your classes.

How can I increase student engagement on campus?

Encourage students to work together, express their concerns, and help each other with moderated online forums, social clubs, and events.

How does student engagement impact student achievement?

Engagement is a massive factor in student performance, so it’s important for teachers to think about engaging activities, features, and platforms throughout their in-person and virtual classes, courses, and planning.