As the magnitude of the effects the coronavirus is having on the world continue to emerge, we now know that physical distancing practices played a huge part in "flattening the curve". For this reason, many schools and RTOs switched predominantly to "distance learning or "online learning". This method of learning remains an attractive option for some. It might be your job to engage remote learners during this time.
You may work at a school or RTO that has created an online space for learning and assessment and you are looking for a way to support your learners as they transition to this new world order. This will be no mean feat, especially if your students are not tech savvy or if they were hard to engage when face-to-face, let alone working remotely.
Fear not, we have some tips on how to keep remote students engaged and tuned in:1. Create and Maintain Clear Channels for Communication
This is probably the single biggest challenge when trying to keep remote students engaged and motivated. Students can struggle when they don’t have regular contact with instructors or peers. Here are some strategies to help keep lines of communication open and encourage students to engage with one another:
- Create a centralised “hub” where students can look for up-to-date information. Including calendars and to-do lists is helpful for students to keep track of tasks and upcoming assessments.
- Keep in touch with students via regular emails. Be sure to include relevant and timely information such as class schedule, reminders and instructions for any upcoming assignments, and instructor contact details and availability.
- Utilise group messaging tools and texts such as WhatsApp to allow students to communicate with one another. Sharing information will allow them to feel connected and reach out to one another for additional support.
- Schedule time each week that instructors are available via web conference or phone to answer questions or provide individualised support and feedback. It’s important that students are able to check in now and then to make sure they’re staying on track.
- Encourage student collaboration. Create a discussion board and encourage students to share ideas and read and comment on each other’s work. Create online assignments that students can work on in pairs or small groups using sharable documents such as Googledocs.
- Set up competitions for students incentivising them to get their work done and sharing when complete. This will not only encourage individual students to finish their work, but create reference material for the rest of the group.
- Solutions like Cloud Assess allow assessors to send emails to their students, create announcements on their dashboard and Chat and Forums are features that are about to be released where trainers and assessors can share lesson plans or any other class material.
2. Embrace the “Flipped Classroom” Approach
This learning model moves instruction from a group learning space to a blended one, where students engage with interactive content outside the classroom individually, and then use the group time for analysis and assessment. You can support each student to navigate this process by:
- Providing learning resources such as online texts, videos, podcasts, etc. for students to use as study material for activities and assignments.
- Create opportunities for individual learning such as research reports, essays, plans and demonstrating practical skills and knowledge.
- Stay connected by creating video tutorials and lessons. You can hold a live lecture using Zoom or record a lesson that can be shared with students to view in their own time.
3. Create Self-Assessment Opportunities
Keep students engaged and inspired by encouraging them to reflect on their own learning and performance, set goals and create action plans. Have students perform a self-assessment.
- Having students self-assess encourages them to critically reflect their own learning progress and performance and take responsibility for their learning. This will help them become more autonomous learners and gain awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses.
- Using a checklist like this one will provide a framework for self-assessment and keep students on track and invested in their learning journey. We encourage you to download it and share it with your students.
It’s important to remember that this is a rapidly evolving situation, with advice changing almost daily. Patience and support are key as this is a new and different experience for a lot of students and many will struggle with the new routine.
With the advances in technology that we have today, we are fortunate in that we can make the best of a bad situation by allowing students to study remotely with little to no impact on the level of education they receive.
UPDATED on 29 July 2020