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Abstract: Ensuring that students are engaged and learning from the other side of a computer screen can be difficult, but there are several things that can be done to help promote student learning.

Teaching is hard enough when you’re face to face with your students and working through each problem with them. It’s even harder to make sure that students are engaged and actively learning when they’re on the other side of a computer screen. You can’t see their faces. In fact, you can’t even be sure that they’re all at the computer! There are, however, several things that can be done to increase student engagement.

Encourage Collaborative Learning

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When students are encouraged to work together in group projects, share their knowledge with one another, or otherwise interact with the online community, they’re much likely to be engaged and involved. Put together team assignments, assign partners, or do whatever else it takes to ensure that there’s actual student interaction taking place. The last thing you want is for a student to log in for a session and then walk away from the computer. It’s particularly helpful if you can design a classroom that promotes a feeling of community: let students introduce themselves to one another, work together on assignments, and interact with one another outside the confines of a single project.

Challenge Students

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Students aren’t going to pay attention to a lesson that covers exactly the same material that they found in the book, nor will they appreciate a lesson that’s spent blankly staring at a video as it plays. Instead, challenge them to go outside their comfort zones. Take the lesson to the next level. Get students to ask questions about the material to show that they are engaged and ready to dive in.

Make It Interactive

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Hands-on learners are easier to reach through e-learning than ever before. You don’t have to provide materials for a complicated experiment or project; instead, you can allow them to get their hands-on interaction through the computer screen. Interactive lessons are much more likely to attract the attention of all of your students–after all, they can’t complete them from the bathroom!

Give Students a Voice

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Ask students what they want to get out of their class sessions and how they learn the best. Let them have input into classroom rules, procedures, and techniques that work for them. Some of what they come up with will surprise you: often, students regulate themselves or hold their peers to higher standards than you would.

Get a Little Kooky

Have you ever dropped a book on the floor, stood on top of your desk, or performed a creative piece from a work of literature for your students just to capture their attention? While some of those techniques are still impossible due to the current constraints of e-learning, you can still get a little silly to get your students’ attention. Write nonsense on the screen, play a funny video, or create a fun character who shows up as part of your lessons when you need it the most. You’ll be surprised by how quickly your students will respond.

Conclusion

Online learning has to be more student-focused than any other form of learning. When students are in an online classroom, you have no way of knowing what other distractions are coming their way. With time, however, you’ll learn to judge the mood of an online class just as easily as a physical one, developing student engagement and improving your ability to command the attention of the class as effortlessly as if you were standing in front of them.

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