During these uncertain times, millions of school children have very recently shifted from in-class learning to distance or remote learning. While the reason for doing so is clear, it does not diminish the challenge of creating a meaningful remote learning experience on short notice. 

Check out the tips below for what educators can do to keep students engaged via remote learning.

Continue to Engage with Students Via Online Learning Tools

It’s the teacher that makes the difference, not the classroom. –Author Michael Morpurgo

It’s very simple to post an assignment for students. They can complete the work and send it back. The assignment can be on target in every way and be pedagogically sound. Yet, this type of system will neither engage nor motivate students for very long, if at all.

When in a classroom, a teacher serves as the key to engagement, motivation, and achievement. According to a Rand study, Teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling.”

Keep that connection, even at a distance. Hold virtual video and audio calls with students. Email students directly or as a class so they recognize you are there. Create videos for students to view. You and your students will need access to devices and reliable internet. Your school or college may already have a virtual classroom platform that you can use. If not, you can use tools like Zoom. Zoom has created a resourceful guide for educators on how teachers can educate their students virtually via Zoom. 

You can also use tools like Xello to facilitate remote learning and continue to prepare students to become future ready even during uncertain times. Students from low income families who may not have internet access or computers at home can try using Xello on their smartphones.

During these uncertain times, maintaining a connection to a teacher has an added purpose. It creates a sense of normalcy that can help ground students despite what is going on around them.

Encourage Socialization Virtually

While the primary purpose of a school (and a classroom) is helping students learn, it serves other purposes as well including socialization. During these disruptive times, socialization is being limited, and students’ needs for interaction are unmet.

Distance learning can help meet students’ needs for socialization and lead to a more engaging learning experience.  

One way to facilitate socialization is to have lessons that require group work. Students can call, text, or use social media to get together and work on the class assignment. In addition, teachers can create a class wide chat via various technologies. Students can be encouraged (participation points) to use the chat to have a “back and forth” on class related topics, ask a question, clarify a point etc. 

You can use Xello’s two-way communication feature to facilitate socialization virtually.

Giving students a reason to work together encourages them to socialize. It also helps to maintain the sense that they are in a class with others, rather than simply responding to a teacher online.

Give More Feedback Online

We all need people who give us feedback. That’s how we improve. –Bill Gates

Students want and expect feedback from their teachers. Feedback must continue when conducting distance learning.

In fact, feedback is even more important during distance learning because students can easily feel like they are on their own. In addition, it serves as a way of communicating expectations and teaching concepts which is particularly important when the classroom component is missing.

eLearningIndustry, a network-based media and publishing company, says of feedback, “Students may disengage when there is no timely feedback, such as would occur more readily in an in-person class… constructive and specific comments, even if brief, can help instruct and encourage students.”

Feedback can come in many forms and you can use gamification strategies to give feedback to students. With many students into video games, they are very familiar with gamification and are motivated by it. If teachers devise ways to gamify lessons, students will be more engaged.

Feedback can be given to the class as a whole, or to individual students. Even a comment to the whole class like, “You guys are doing great – keep it up!” goes a long way.

Keep Parents Involved

Many parents may be in the same situation as their children and this can be a great opportunity for them to support one another. Share your plans with parents and encourage them to collaborate with their son or daughter to keep motivation and remote-learning flowing.

Time and again, research has shown that parents and guardians who are involved in their student’s education perform better. This is true regardless of income and family background.

So, to make remote learning successful and engaging, teachers should keep parents and guardians in the loop and turn them into a partner.

There are multiple ways to do this. THE Journal, which was the first magazine to cover education technology, suggests “hold[ing| virtual conference video or audio calls for parents to have access to [teachers] …” Communication can also be done via, text, email, or social media.

Letting parents know about their student’s performance, keeping them posted on assignments, and asking for their feedback also assists teachers as it’s harder for them to keep up with students when they are not in class. While parents and guardians are also distracted by these uncertain times, knowing that their children are learning and engaged is a comfort. Being able to contribute to that process is something many will be happy to do.

Think About the Future

In times of uncertainty, the news seems to be changing constantly leaving some people wrapped up in the moment. To maintain a positive outlook, it’s important to think about the future when times will be more like they normally are.

On this note, teachers should continue their classroom routines to the greatest extent possible while distance learning is happening. Students (and parents and guardians) can appreciate that the teacher’s aims of preparing them for the future remain, which encourages them to think about the bigger picture as well.

One of those aims is to prepare students so that they are future ready. Just as teachers and schools turned to Xello to help with this aim while in the classroom, the program can help students while they are at home. Giving students access to Xello while they are at home will keep them engaged as they can continue to work on preparing themselves for a brighter tomorrow.

E-learning can appear to be challenging but it’s not impossible to implement. Look at other districts who have started implementing e-learning strategies successfully and learn from them. States, such as Indiana, already have a head-start when it comes to implementing an e-learning policy. Many teachers have also started offering advice online on how to successfully switch to remote learning, which means it’s something that can be done successfully.

Distance learning can be a challenge for educators. However, educators can use the same skills they apply in the classroom and modify their tactics during distance learning to engage students and inspire them to continue learning. 

Larry Bernstein
ABOUT LARRY

Larry is an experienced educator having taught at both the K-12 and post high school level. Outside of the classroom, Larry is a freelance writer whose writing focuses on edtech and general education topics.