Creating Engaging Virtual Experience Through Online Learning

While students are accustomed to using online platforms for entertainment or even hobby-based learning, the transition to a virtual-only classroom setup has come with its challenges.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, schools and colleges transitioned rapidly to an online teaching model that continues to be the dominant channel for imparting education. A virtual learning platform offers many opportunities for creative teaching, and several ed-tech platforms have sprung up to cater to new demands for innovative course design and classroom management. At the same time, important questions are being raised about how to facilitate the deeper connection between teachers and students when physical proximity is no longer an option. This calls for a stronger focus on engagement techniques that put the student front and centre. 

While students are accustomed to using online platforms for entertainment or even hobby-based learning, the transition to a virtual-only classroom setup has come with its challenges. For many students, there have been technical hurdles to overcome, such as faulty Internet connection or outdated digital devices, which can interrupt the learning experience and cause the student to fall behind. There is also the widened gap between the teacher and the student - as well as among students - when everyone is just a face on a camera. Addressing this calls for a creative, deliberate approach to boosting engagement and stimulating student participation. Here are some ideas to consider.

Involve the students in the curriculum blueprint

Having a clear understanding of what the course will entail before starting will help the students know what to expect at each stage. This is also a great opportunity to ask students for inputs on how they would like the course to be presented. For instance, if students would prefer to be tested through regular pop quizzes rather than lengthy monthly tests, the teachers can take this into account.

Set up peer-to-peer connections

Group projects are a big part of the classroom setup, and teachers should encourage this even in the virtual classroom by designing group activities and putting sets of students together. Group activity enables students to support and guide each other, especially in cases where a student is struggling with a topic but feels shy about consulting the teacher. It also encourages collaboration and the sharing of ideas, which are important life skills to hone.

Make the most of virtual learning with multiple content formats

Perhaps the most significant benefit of online learning lies in the variety of teaching methods that can be used. Videos, presentations, and interactive quizzes can be put to great effect, helping students grasp concepts through lively content rather than pages of text. This is particularly beneficial for students who are visual learners and even for those with learning disabilities, for whom traditional textbooks may pose a challenge. 

Have regular one-on-one check-ins

Students need to feel like they are being heard and taken care of, rather than just viewed as faces on a screen. Teachers should thus schedule periodic checks with each student to understand their concern areas and assist them with anything they may need. Students may also be battling grief and uncertainty if their family members are ill with or have succumbed to Covid-19. Mental support can go a long way in helping them stay productive, be it through extra time off or a counselling session where the student is invited to unburden freely.

Encourage student feedback

With online learning, collecting feedback from students about their learning experience is easier than ever. Teachers should encourage their students to share honest feedback and suggestions on how to optimize the classroom experience. This not only provides valuable data to the teacher but also encourages the student to self-reflect and articulate their thoughts in a structured fashion - a critical skill in the workplace, where conciseness and informative inputs are highly valued.

As we enter a post-Covid world where online learning platforms will continue to hold sway, schools and colleges need to find new ways to deliver an engaging, welcoming, and productive educational experience that helps students fulfil their dreams. Many reputed universities have already made great strides in this regard, and the new generation of online-first students can benefit from the blend of tried-and-tested knowledge and modern-day technology for truly holistic education.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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