4 tips to virtually engage students as an educator

With such distance between each student and their professor, it can be tough for students to truly feel engaged and easy for them to get distracted. Professors had to get innovative with how they teach and get students to remain focused. Here are 4 tips you can try to virtually engage students as an educator.
December 9, 2020
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2020 has drastically changed the education landscape and what learning looks like. One year ago, students would wake up, get ready for the day, and make their commute to school. Today, students wake up and travel from their beds to their desk or wherever their device may be. With such distance between each student and their professor, it can be tough for students to truly feel engaged and easy for them to get distracted. Professors had to get innovative with how they teach and get students to remain focused. Here are 4 tips you can try to virtually engage students as an educator.


Giving opportunity to collaborate

One style of teaching which is rapidly becoming less and less effective is the typical lecture-based approach. Besides the occasional question from professors, students sit in front of their screens, listening and taking notes. 

Lectures are often 1-3 hours in length and a professor talking for the greater majority of that time can cause students to slowly lose attention. Instead, try to incorporate opportunities for collaborative work amongst students which can boost engagement and keep students focused. 

For example, professors can send students into virtual breakout rooms or other links depending on whichever platform you are using, have the students talk out a given problem in smaller groups, and then bring the students back to the main room and have them present what they discussed. 

By allowing students to collaborate, they will be able to share their thoughts with others and create/strengthen meaningful relationships with the other students in the class. For quieter students in a large class, small groups may encourage more participation. While students are learning from home and unable to interact regularly, this could also be a great way to introduce them to their peers and meet new people.


Encouraging general discussion

General discussion at any point during the lecture can be beneficial for anyone to express their thoughts, opinions, and feelings towards a given topic or even no topic at all. If you plan to hold a lecture-based lesson, make sure to break up the lesson and give students a chance to speak. These discussions can be a good chance for professors to make sure students are understanding the content being taught, along with the students to express their thoughts and possibly open the minds of others.

Discussing the material which is being taught is great for any engaging class, but it is also important to understand how students are feeling in general. Try starting a class by asking about their weekend or if anyone has read a good book lately. 


Keep track of individual student performance

This can be tough for the professor depending on the amount of students they teach, though if possible, tracking students’ individual performance can make areas for improvement apparent to the students and encourage them to improve on a more personal level. 

One method of tracking you can try is taking note of the feedback you give to each student and monitor how they improve over the next few assignments. From there, you can better personalize comments for that students and provide encouragement by acknowledging their improvement. You can also reach out to students who continue to struggle and help identify key areas they need to work on.

If your class size is small which usually happens in upper-year courses, you can try out individual learning plans. These plans will greatly help in student growth and set them up for life after work so that they can learn how to monitor their own performance and continue to improve and learn even beyond their school life.


Project-based work

As mentioned earlier, the lecture-based approach is slowly being phased out and approaches such as project-based learning is being phased in. Rather than just simply teaching a lesson, professors can encourage students to solve problems and learn through engaging projects. These projects can reinforce in-class theory through practical application. If you want to learn more about how project-based learning is beneficial for students, you can check out Riipen’s recent blog post.

If you are interested in bringing project-based learning into your virtual classroom, Riipen has you covered. Riipen helps match companies and educators to bring opportunities to develop real-world skills into the classroom on a global scale. By signing up with Riipen you will be able to implement projects given by real companies into your classroom and give students work integrated experience to prepare them for their future career. If you want to learn more about Riipen and its benefits, you can visit our website or contact our team at sales@riipen.com to get started.

About the author:

Austin Gumbs is a Marketing Intern at Riipen and is currently a third-year University of Toronto student studying Business. He enjoys getting involved with his University community through his work on different clubs. When he isn’t working on extracurriculars, you can find him at his desk watching various Netflix shows and YouTube videos, playing games, or working on a new hobby of his: glass painting.


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