How to Improve Online Learning
The education sector was among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Institutions across the globe were forced to close campuses in the spring of 2020 and rapidly shift to online instruction. For many colleges and universities, this meant delivering standard courses and the “traditional” classroom experience through videoconferencing and various connectivity tools. It also meant a new focus on student engagement in online learning during the pandemic.
The approach worked to support students through a period of acute crisis but stands in contrast to the offerings of online education pioneers. These institutions use AI and advanced analytics to provide personalized learning and on-demand student support, and to accommodate student preferences for varying digital formats. Colleges and universities can take a cue from the early adopters of online education, those companies and institutions that have been refining their online teaching models for more than a decade, as well as the edtechs that have entered the sector more recently to deliver online education services.
Since the pandemic, research shows that students in general are also at least somewhat more interested in learning online now than they were before the pandemic. That’s the consensus of roughly 75 percent of university chief online officers in the Changing Landscape of Online Education, or CHLOE, survey by the nonprofit Quality Matters and the higher education consulting firm Eduventures. College and university students will all now be online for at least part of their education, these administrators almost unanimously say. That means a newly emerging focus on how to improve online learning or how to increase student engagement in online learning is at the forefront.
To engage most effectively with students online, the recommendation for students in online learning includes creating a seamless journey for students, adopting an engaging approach to teaching, and building a connected and inclusive online learning community. This approach can help curb the lack of student engagement in online learning.
Suggestions to Improve Online Learning for Students
Institutions now have an opportunity to create more attractive and engaging online learning environments. With this set of suggestions to improve online learning for students, institutions can employ an effective mix of synchronous and asynchronous online learning activities that have improved student engagement in online learning, and contributed to better retention.
When any student begins learning online, they become susceptible to a host of challenges — lack of access, a growing sense of isolation, and the temptation to cheat — that could threaten their progress. These downsides to online learning become reasons for lack of student engagement. As institutions accelerate their digital transformations, there’s an opportunity to leverage technology in ways that both tackle the downsides of online learning and also invigorate engagement.
For example, in the host of recommendations for online learning for students one of the best levers instructors can pull on is discussion boards. To illustrate course concepts or materials, instructors can use prompts that reference current events and social justice issues to solicit response from students.
This gives all students the chance to articulate their opinions, understand competing perspectives, and compose thoughtful responses — including those who tend to be naturally shy or need to feel the discussions are a safe space. To signal course discussions as safe spaces, enable anonymous posts when identity is not important. Students are more likely to participate, and it’s how to improve online learning for college students in a way that helps them discuss difficult topics as well as figure out how to resolve conflict.
Importance of Student Engagement in Online Learning
The importance of student engagement in online learning cannot be overstated. In online learning, student engagement describes the way in which students interact with instructors and classmates to improve learning outcomes. It measures the extent to which students are connected and involved with course material.
Even more so than in face-to-face courses, students in online courses need to be able to interact with peers and instructors; they need to be able to discuss the things they are struggling with and share their ideas to help others in the class. Students who are disinterested in the material or learning activities will disengage, which leads to apathy and, ultimately, poor performance.
The need for online student engagement became especially apparent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the transition to online learning happened so abruptly, instructors had little to no time to prepare to teach the course in the digital landscape. The initial lack of student engagement in online learning left educators and students understandably frustrated. With the spotlight now on student engagement, institutions were tasked with finding ways to keep online students involved in course material. They quickly realized the value of peer-to-peer and peer-to-instructor interaction, even with remote learning.
To improve student engagement, institutions began investing in video tools and related technology so that students and educators could remain in close contact. Even with the pandemic abating, and students returning to in-person classes, institutions are continually looking for ways to improve online student engagement and student outcomes. There are a number of reasons why more and more students are opting for online and hybrid learning models, and institutions need to be flexible in order to keep up with the demands of today’s modern learner.
The importance of student engagement in online learning should not be underestimated. Supporting faculty professional development in this area is essential. Many educators participate in student engagement training and workshops in order to learn how to increase engagement in their online courses. Education today is heavily dependent on technology and is likely to become even more tech-based in the near future. It is incumbent on educators to keep up with the latest tools to facilitate engagement in the digital classroom. By doing so, they can work to create better learning experiences for their students.
Suggestions for Online Classes for Teachers
When you search for suggestions to improve online classes for teachers or suggestions for online classes for teachers, you’ll come up with a wide variety of practices. The key is to focus on increasing interaction with and among students. Think discussion boards.
In addition to using relevant and thought-provoking prompts, you’ll spur student participation in online discussions when you encourage different mediums of response. Instead of long, text-heavy threads, consider how much more interesting and engaging discussions will become when you introduce multimedia options. With video, image, annotation, audio & captioning, and text, you allow for a wider range of responses and empower students to express themselves in the ways they’re most comfortable.
In addition to being more inclusive of how students learn, student-facilitated discussions are another way to encourage interactivity in online courses. These online teaching tips for college prepare students to be knowledge-producers and actively engage them in the learning process through exploratory discussion.
Studies even show that peer-led discussions enhance community and encourage other students’ participation, while also being beneficial for learning outcomes — generating innovative ideas, motivating students to participate in the discussion, and providing a risk-free and relaxed atmosphere for discussion. It empowers students to take ownership of online discussion assignments while developing facilitation and discussion skills, and serves to redefine the instructor’s role from daily discussion manager to facilitation coach.
Finally, explore other pathways for communication, such as polls and course Q&A, to ask students where more discussion focus is needed and what else you can do to create a positive learning environment. Using polls, you can even ask students: how would you improve this course as a student. This can help get new ideas rolling.
Creating online discussions that are relevant to today’s students, more inclusive of diverse learning modalities, and that can drive connection through peer learning are effective ways to build better student engagement in online learning. And yes, it’s a lot of work. Never underestimate a teachers efforts for online classes. But technology can help.
Online Tools for Student Engagement
Harmonize offers a range of student engagement tools to improve retention, including rich multimedia discussion and Q&A boards, polling, chat, and more — all of which allow students to participate in the ways that work best for them. Using online tools for student engagement increases the quality and quantity of student-to-student, student-to-content, and student-to-instructor interactions.
✔ Rich Multimedia & Annotation
✔ Built-in Chat, Polling & Q&A
✔ Tagging, Notification & Reactions
✔ Streamlined Grading to Save Instructors Time & Focus on Feedback
A good student engagement platform also provides tools for instructors to monitor student engagement and interactions to see who needs extra help. For example, with the platform’s activity reports, instructors can view student participation and see who is the most or least engaged in course material. This is a great way to gauge the effectiveness of your engagement techniques and activities. Engagement tools like these can be used to create a more positive learning environment for students and instructors alike.
The bottom line is that having access to the right tools to power effective online learning is paramount. Making sure the student engagement software is inclusive of different learners’ styles, fosters social connection and community, and is designed to help instructors track student participation could spell the difference between student success or attrition. To do all of this, some institutions rely on a variety of disconnected tools that aren’t fully integrated with the LMS — creating additional barriers for instructors and making it more difficult to create a cohesive learning experience that engages students.
Harmonize is a single suite of digital discussion and collaboration tools that integrate seamlessly with your LMS to facilitate a more engaging online learning experience. It’s everything an instructor needs to increase student engagement online and promote inclusive learning, while saving time and eliminating manual tasks.