When American schools made the switch to online learning in 2020, many institutions shared their concern that student engagement would sharply decline in the 2020 spring and fall semesters. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent switch to remote learning, surveys have proven educator’s 2020 concerns and have found that 57% of students struggle to stay engaged and motivated in the classroom. Michael Treco, a volunteer member of Columbia University’s Teachers College Young Alumni & Student Engagement Committee, hopes to help remote teachers this semester improve their classroom engagement by sharing established engagement methods proven to work in virtual environments.
Promote Active Learning
When educators are looking to improve classroom engagement, one of the first tools they often utilize is active learning. Active learning can be defined as education that asks students to do rather than learn. When educators put the onus of learning on students, it pushes them to be responsible for understanding topics and engaging with the material. Teachers can promote active learning within their online classrooms by forming student groups and asking students to collaborate on a project, solve a problem together, or create a group presentation to share with the class.
Community of Inquiry Model
University of Calgary professor and researcher Randy Garrison has become well known throughout academic circles for creating the Col model for maximizing online classroom engagement. The goal of the Col model is to promote a social and teaching presence in classroom communities, thereby encouraging classroom engagement as well as social and cognitive presence. For readers who may be unaware of Randy Garrison’s terminology, cognitive presence can be classified as the degree to which students construct meaning through academic reflection and discussion. Social presence can be defined as individuals’ ability to perceive classmates and instructors as real people in online environments while teaching presence is the extent of an instructor or student’s ability to design and direct meaningful instruction.
Lean on Technology (Social Media)
Michael Treco states that one of the best ways teachers can promote student engagement is by first looking to where their students already gravitate towards. Our modern society is becoming more and more technology-dependent. The majority of teens and young adults spend eight and a half hours a day online and between one to two hours a day on social media. As a result, many online teachers are now creating Twitter hashtags, Instagram DM groups, and Facebook groups with their classes and asking students to share relevant content with their classmates via social media. This method allows students to see the subject’s relevance in their lives and promote thoughtful classroom discussions.