Student participation in online learning sessions is a challenge for all tutors. This is because most students feel bored and less interested in looking at the screens for a few hours. However, the teachers need to increase the participation of students and if not, all the efforts made in preparing notes and slides would be in vain. Here are some strategies which can be used by lecturers to increase student participation in online lessons.
Explain the Importance of Participation
The first session of any course will be where almost all the students would participate. The first impression on the lecturer and the course content would determine the student participation throughout the course. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the tutor to capture the attention of the class on the first day itself. Explain the importance of participation in the specific course. Discuss how attending the sessions would help them understand the content. Also, acknowledge the minimum number of sessions for which a student should participate to get through the module successfully. Rather than making them feel it a burden to attend online lessons, motivate them by explaining the benefits as the course goes on.
Focus on the Quality of Lessons, not Quantity
The quality of the lessons taught online is way important than the number of lessons covered. Instead of moving fast through the lessons, focus on the quality of lessons. Delivering small lessons with clear explanations and high-quality video and audio content would make it more appealing to the students. If you are covering a lot of lessons at once without proper explanations, it would only make the students desperate. It could even lead to the downfall of participants for the lessons next time. After all, no one wants to be in a class where you can’t understand the lessons.
Provide Feedback to Everyone
Sometimes there are students who like to engage actively in the lessons by asking questions. If they raise these questions during the lesson, praise them and encourage them to ask more. Cutting them out in the middle or ignoring them is the way to respond. If they send you personal messages, appreciate their interest and provide the necessary answers. You can even provide them advice on how to approach questions better for discussion. Also, provide public feedback on the class. This will help them feel valued and keep track of their progress.
Create Constructive Conversations
Ask open-ended questions during the lessons and allow students to provide answers. Encourage them to speak up and explain the value of diverse perspectives. Sometimes their answers would not be accurate, but help them think differently without criticizing them. Disagreeing and challenging in discussions in a good manner is acceptable for the growth of the conversation. Do not dominate the discussion alone as the tutor. Allow students to discuss with each other on the platform. You can even do a poll and discuss the results. Don’t ask the questions in the same traditional methods. Be innovative and put the questions in different ways.
Help the Introverts
Online learning is where most introverts participate than the physical classrooms. So don’t worry even if there are some silent students in the online sessions. They will be listening keenly even though they may not participate in the discussions. They would be happy to read, listen and stay passive. If you try to make them forcefully active in the session, they wouldn’t even show up in the next class. So make the learning experience appealing for all students of different personalities. Understanding them is the best way to guide all students successfully throughout the term.
Assign Student Moderators
Assign one or a few student moderators or representatives depending on the size of the class. They will help in encouraging fellow students to participate in the sessions actively. Allow them to pick the important topics and discussions. They can even come up with different ideas and suggestions from the rest of the class. This will make it easy for the communication between the tutor and the students. The discussion could emerge in new areas as the students assigned as moderators would be more willing to participate in the discussions. This is because moderators feel a sense of ownership and valued in the class.
Have Off-Topic Conversations
Stirring up the conversations off-topic is important once in a while. Sessions should not be focused only on the lesson throughout. If so, it would easily make it monotonous and the students would lose interest very soon. As a trick to break the flow of the lesson, you can come up with some interesting discussion. Find a hot topic such as a news item or an industrial development where students can take out their minds off from the lesson. This will make them feel fresh when you come back to the lesson afterward.
You can invite a guest speaker to address the community once in a while. They will have a lot to share about their experiences with the class. This doesn’t need to be always related to the lesson as you can even invite motivational speakers to cheer up the mind of the participants. Encourage your students to prepare questions to ask him or her. Make it a more interactive session so that guests would want to dive deep into the facts.
Base Exam Questions on Live Discussions
One thing that everyone would want is to get good grades and pass the course. So preparing certain questions based on the in-class discussions would increase student participation without a doubt. However, you need to acknowledge this to the students well ahead, on the first day itself so that they know what to expect. This will even make the students who attend the online learning sessions regularly feel more valued.
Plan Your Lessons
Create a light syllabus and plan the dates of the lessons. Make this schedule available to the students so that they have an idea of the flow of the course. This would even help them plan their work, go through the pre-requirements and prepare for the lectures. Since the students know what to expect in each session, they would have more faith in the lesson and come prepared mentally. If you need more ideas, refer to how to keep students engaged in online lessons.