COVID-19 has shifted plenty of activities online, including schooling. To prevent the risk of infection, students are sent home to study online via online classes. It has been a while since this arrangement has been in place and so far, many students and teachers have adjusted to online schooling. But challenges still come with it.
There's no questioning the flexibility and convenience of online schooling. However, for all of its benefits, online schooling can feel isolating for both students and teachers. How can you make your classes more interactive? Is it possible to build a sense of community when you are physically apart? It is. Teachers can still make online schooling for elementary kids and high school students more productive by cultivating more interaction.
Here are practical ways to increase human connection in your online classrooms.
Get Creative With Discussion Boards
Discussion boards are staple communication tools for online courses. In an online setting, you can still make discussion boards interactive for deeper participation.
In traditional in-person classes, only a small percentage of students participate in the discussion. In an online setting, teachers can easily structure their discussions so that all students will contribute. Also, you'll have more time to consider what you want to say in case of questions.
Start by determining the size of your class. If you have a large class (i.e. composed of 100 students), set up smaller discussion groups composed of 20 people, so the students can get to know each other. If you want a more intimate interaction, create smaller groups composed of five to seven people. To expand interactions, rotate these groups.
Keep the conversation going with open-ended discussion prompts. You can ask students to interpret a concept from different perspectives or require them to provide examples. You can also give students more control by setting up student-facilitated discussion opportunities.
Integrate Real-Time Interaction
Online courses that are completely asynchronous come with limited interaction between students and teachers. For example, when you post announcements, you can't do it in real-time, especially during a video lecture. The same applies to when students post on a discussion board. The lag in response can kill the momentum that keeps a good conversation going. In worse cases, it can also lead to misunderstandings.
Introducing opportunities for real-time interaction can help develop a sense of community in your online classes. Think of ways you can introduce impromptu conversations in an online setting. Consider setting up opportunities for students to meet online synchronously both informally and formally. Create different synchronous interactions using web-conferencing applications.
Use Multiple Communication Tools
One way schools enhance student engagement amidst an online environment is the creation of program-wide social networks for students. These platforms enable students to interact with other students from one class to another. The faculty can also use these networks to announce events or send direct messages. These networks, however, require planning and continuous maintenance.
Many schools start their social networks by having the students add their profile photos and create their bios. These activities alone, however, are not enough to keep the kids coming back for interactions. Transform your social network to a thriving social network by frequently updating the network's content and ask the students to post their content or contributions.
Teachers need not heavily depend on this institutional support to liven up their classes. Apart from social networking tools like Telegram, Facebook and WhatsApp, students can also meet on Google Hangouts or Skype.
Maximize Engagement with Non-Task Interactions
Not all activities at school are for learning; some of them are designed to support the community. As the teacher, you can facilitate interaction by using the capabilities of social networking, which includes web-conferencing and chat. Using the group function of these platforms, students can create study groups or special interest groups (e.g. book clubs or exercise clubs).
Plan Around The Tools That You Use
Online tools are just as good as the way you use them. When you move in-person classes online or create an online course from the ground up, consider how interaction can support the course's learning goals. Enhance any opportunities for interactions in your online classroom to take learning goals to the next level.
Ask For Feedback
Your students are the best way to know if your strategies are working. Plus, any chance for them to leave feedback is a great opportunity for interaction. Ask them what they think about your current set-up and accept their suggestions.
Despite online schooling being part of the current "new normal," many students and teachers are still adjusting to the reality on studying online. But the tips mentioned above can help you make learning online more interactive and productive for you and the children.